How did Green Mountain become the most innovative data center company in the world?
This is a truly bold statement and I must say that I probably am a little influenced by seeing a Ted Talk about how Norway has transformed over time to become one of the most innovative countries in the world. This TED Talk highlights the ability to live change through four seemingly easy steps:
- Accept the fact of change
- Find purpose
- Celebrate champions
- Right vs wrong
As always when I am inspired, I relate to what this means for us in Green Mountain, and what we can do to become better for all our stakeholders, clients, colleagues and shareholders.
I am still new to what is considered to be a young company. I have been with Green Mountain close to two years now, while Green Mountain itself has been in operation for “only” six years – so maybe both myself and the company is still in kind of a honeymoon phase, where everything is positive and possible. So, what makes me say this, and to relate I wanted to see how we in Green Mountain live these four steps of innovation.
1. Accept the fact of change
The data center industry has over the last years experienced rapid growth, and new megawatts of facilities seems to be added on a daily basis across the globe to support the growth of data through even more connected devices, IoT, AI and all other opportunities entering the market spaces now and in the close future. In the six years we have been operational we see that change is constant, and even if we are a young company, we still have experienced many change stories in Green Mountain. The first story will be from the first facility we built.
It is hard when we now look at what we call DC1-Stavanger to understand that it once used to be a NATO mine and torpedo storage facility. When the world became a safer place (and yes, the world has never been safer than just now), things changed, and NATO did not need the storage anymore, which in turn became a huge opportunity for us. We could use NATO`s significant investments in security, to create both one of the most secure and also one of the greenest data centers globally.
I can only imagine the creativity and thought-process that must have been going on saying something like; hmm, let us build a data center inside this “mine”, 1150 ft inside this mountain. Therefore, I guess that was the first fact of change, take something “useless” or “not in use” and create value for something in demand.
Also, even as they were planning, there must have been a serious creative process; in addition to a secure facility they also came up with the idea to use the natural elements surrounding the facility, to create one of the most energy-efficient data centers, cooled by water from the nearby fjord. Not using any energy to pump water in, but let the nature itself take care of it by using gravity to pump water into the data center cold water basin. This creates a system that is the most energy efficient in the world, where only 3 kW of power usage creates 1000 kW of cooling capacity. This culture of taking what is in front of us, and doing the best out of it, is also embraced in the Green Mountain attitude and culture – and we really live a culture where we accept the fact of change.
Let us look at what we have and make the right choices for the future. Let us examine what we have and always try to make the best out of it. The results have been massive over this six-year period, and I want to highlight a few examples.
- From fixed to modular data centers, both in and outside the mountain.
- Green Peak – the first AI and sensor technology solution for a data center to create 100 % transparency for our clients
- We need to build a connectivity hub, and if we cannot get enough fiber then let us build it ourselves to be on par or better than our neighbors
2. Find purpose
Everywhere you go, hear or read about companies today there is talk about vision and purpose – and I believe this is something that my generation (born 71) kind of have taken for granted and even if we have written some nice vision statements, sometimes it is more put on the top shelf and brushed off for the right occasion. Everybody talks about it; believe in them – but very few lives it. Now more than ever, vision and purpose have to be expressed and lived. No company I have worked for earlier has so clearly lived its vision as Green Mountain – Setting The Green Standard. It lives in everything we do, and you can even see it when you arrive at DC1-Stavanger. There are charging stations for EV, and I have yet to see a gasoline driven car at the property (besides guests).
Even the AI and sensor solution that we added was created to have better visibility into the mechanics and secure that we could optimize delivery, squeeze out the last percentages of efficiency – and even with just 1 % improvement, we found out by doing this, we also helped our clients optimize their deliveries.
Another element of purpose is also that you can never fall in love with the product that you have created, but always have to work to improve – change is constant. All companies start out with a purpose, and some of them get lost and are willing to die for what they have created – only to find out that someone else has done it smarter, better and faster. Our product now is different from when we started, and we try to challenge ourselves every day to stay ahead of the curve, push the limits of what is possible to stay relevant and to live our vision of Setting The Green Standard.
3. Celebrate Champions
To become the best, you have to learn from the best, and this is something where I have drawn significant learnings from my sports career and the drive we had to always ask others for help in getting better. Even when we believed we had figured it out, we kept searching for options to get better –always driving for continued improvement. When Green Mountain decided to build DC1-Stavanger they did just that, they grasped whatever was out in the marketplace of consultants, solutions, persons, systems as well as the collective experience of the company to understand how they could build a world-leading data center – and then continued to push the boundaries to make it even better. Fortunately, we have also had an owner that enabled us to build just that; the best data center – not having to cut corners but think long-term. We do not forget who got us here, and I am glad to say that we are influenced by many great minds across the industry and that we continue to celebrate the ones that come up with smart solutions. We still travel the world learning from great minds at conferences, site visits, competitors and clients all with different perspectives. When I grew up playing hockey, I looked to my icons like Tretjak, Pelle Lindberg, Grant Fuhr and many others and learned from them. In Green Mountain, we look to Uptime Institute, OCP, Open19, Infrastructure Masons, Schneider Electric, the hyperscalers and many others to learn about the trends in the industry and make sure we always stay current. We love what we do, but we are always willing to work hard to make it better. Change is constant.
4. Right vs wrong
In the TED Talk, they highlight that we traditionally look to find the expected answer, rather than the right one. In Green Mountain, we keep trying to find the right one, and I am sure we have done some mistakes along the way to get where we are. However, I think the success also lies in daring to make these mistakes, we are not afraid of failing. Wayne Gretzky once said that you miss 100% of the shots you did not take. Which for me means, if you do not try you will not find success. We believe that we have found some of the right answers, but we are also very clear that we do not know all of them. We love to innovate, we love to try, and we love to push the boundaries. This far we have succeeded in building the most secure and energy efficient data center in the world, but I am sure there is someone who will take over the throne soon. Nevertheless, we will fight to get back on top, always living the purpose of Green Mountain, always trying to get better and living change.
So back to my bold statement – are we the most innovative data center company in the world? Maybe, maybe not – but at least we are trying every day to live our purpose and live the change to the best for our clients, colleagues, and owners. The future is bright, and we are doing our part on leading the way and Setting The Green Standard.
Ask us, we are more than happy to share our insights and thoughts about an industry that is undergoing constant change.