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Data Center Constructions

How do you build a data center platform for scale and speed?

An article by CSO, of Green Mountain, Svein Atle Hagaseth.

Since our inception in 2009, clients have challenged us in getting data center capacity up and running as fast as possible.  This has traditionally always been a tough task for data center providers. A balancing act of quality, cost and time in order to deliver operational excellence and uptime.
Over the last few years this has intensified, although we have always been tested by our customers and the market of doing things no-one thought possible.

Let me give you a few examples to support this:

  • In 2013, we were challenged to build our 2nd data center site (DC2 Telemark) in less than 6 months. The client had hired Uptime Institute to assess the opportunity, and they deemed it impossible. Green Mountain and the client trusted our capability anyway. So, we transformed a non-regulated land area to an operational data center, delivered 2 weeks ahead of time.
  • In 2018, a large international cloud provider asked us to build a satellite site of 2.5 MW in 6 months. We developed the site from a raw mountain hall (see picture) to a fully operational site. The client approved it on the agreed RFS date. Simultanously, we built a 3MW site for Volkswagen (the agreements were actually coincidentally signed on the same day in September 2018), which was also delivered on time in 6 months.

These efforts are mainly due to our ability to create a data center build platform of scale and speed.

Making a data center inside the mountain
Images from a raw mountain hall that we turned into a data center.
Mountain Hall before converted to data center.
Preparing to build a mountain hall data center in only 6 months.

Strong growth with restricted capital

Green Mountain is currently owned by Smedvig, a family office in Norway. Although a great owner for us, the board of directors challenge us to think differently with regards to how we compete with the large players in the market. Players with “unlimited” access to capital as greatly portrayed in Rich Millers podcast “Building Cloud Data Centers at Internet Speed”.
Green Mountain has over the last few years grown with more than 300 %, and we have developed from being a domestic provider to an international driven provider. More than 70 % of our revenue is with international clients. These international clients typically require tailor made solutions and build-to-suit capacity in times ranging from 3-12 months. Only 5 years ago the time range was normally 9-36 months. I have recently written an article about our different deployment models and how long it takes to build out data center capacity.  That article highlighted how we actually are able to leverage market leading build times through our established platform for growth. We also need to ensure we are able to do this without land-banking (speculative land acquisitions) or buy up on inventory at scale for long lead items (gensets etc). Instead, we act on our company’s core values; We think differently, innovate, and utilize our established ecosystem. As a result, we now have a leading data center platform for scale and speed, with ability to  deliver these projects on time, on budget and to agreed quality.
So, what exactly is our data center platform of scale and speed, and what does it actually mean? It all boils down to three core elements:

Platform elements:

  • Organization, empowerment and a “client first” attitude
  • Plan an industrialized approach to build
  • Lean/Kaizen, multiple sprint approach

In Green Mountain our passion and vision have always been driving forces i  order to deliver operational excellence in all aspects. In Norway, we have available access to highly qualified personnel in both existing and new locations. We hire the operational team early to make sure they are part of the process. This way, we make sure that the people who are going to run the site when in production, also contribute through the build process. This again creates multiple streams that reduce our time to market.
From our owners Smedvig, a large property developer, we have learned their holistic view on the build process. A strong focus on structure, standardization, and an industrialized approach. This enables us to run multiple simultaneous and parallel sprints which bring down the build time significantly. Of course, some of these things we cannot control, like for instance long lead items like the gensets. However, we try to be smart about the process. We know that the sales process and contract negotiations are not done in a day. So, we put in soft orders for long lead items to secure our place in the production line with suppliers and to reduce the delivery time.

Data Center Platform - Monitoring the data center
In the end, it is all about the people.

It is all about the people

To summarize, I truly believe in the aspect of industrialization.  But in the end, the core and the success of the platform boils down to the people executing it. By fostering a culture of responsibility, empowerment, security and a common goal, we are able to always deliver on our commitment.
This platform of scale and speed is something that we will continue to bring to new sites and to new client projects. We constantly challenge ourselves in improving the models that bring clients to markets as soon as possible.