Russia, The Final Frontier For Data Centers?

Updated: To paraphrase (and mangle) StarTrek’s famous tagline: Can Russia be the place where Internet companies boldly go looking for the final frontier of data centers? At least one blog thinks so, and it points to the massive hydroelectric power capacity on tap in Russia. An article in this week’s The Economist points to RusHydro, a Russian company with the capacity to produce 25 gigawatts of electricity.

Much of the unused part is in Russia, RusHydro says. It has 5GW of new capacity under construction and more than 20GW on the drawing board—enough to double production.

Power is seen as the biggest constraint when it comes to building data center capacity. As a way around this conundrum, large consumers of Internet data center capacity have located their facilities closer to energy sources. For instance, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have built data centers in Quincy in the state of Washington near a hydroelectric dam where they pay a lot less for power than, say, in Silicon Valley. Google has built a massive facility in The Dalles, Oregon, another location close to power source. (Related stories: The Geography of Internet Infrastructure and Why Google Needs Its Own Nuclear Plant)

From that perspective, it is not so far fetched to imagine that these and other companies could plan on building data centers in Russia. Microsoft has already made its intentions very clear and is planning a data center in Siberia. Google has been slowly expanding its presence in Russia including a recent purchase of Rambler for $140 million. Of course, the big problem is a lack of massive Internet backbone pipes in and out of Russia, but that might be an issue that could be addressed easily.

Why? As we have noted before, there is a lot of capacity being built across the Pacific Ocean. Earlier this week, a new 570 km cable with a capacity of 640 Gbps between Russia and Japan went live.The cable is a joint venture between TransTelecom Company CJSC of Russia, which has about 55,000 kilometers of backhaul network in Russia. The other partner in this cable is NTT. Similarly, Eastern Europe is seeing big build-outs when it comes to fiber to the home (and/or premises). These networks needs backhaul pipes leading to big network upgrades.

I think the reason is that Russia’s natural environment makes it a good candidate for big data center expansion. There are some folks who have come up with ways to leverage natural environments such as cold weather to lower the amount of power required to cool a data center. Andrew Hopper, head of Cambridge University Computing Lab, has been preaching the mantra of putting data centers next to power sources, since it takes “electrical transmissions costs out of the equation.”

Google Data Centers Around The World Map Courtesy of Pingdom. Our source tell us that not all locations on the map qualify as data centers. Instead, some of them are data centers and others are smaller locations that route traffic to “real” data centers.