The Possible Frigid Future of Server Holding

The Arctic Circle, the northernmost circle of latitude known for its freezing temperatures and inhospitable environment, might turn out be the perfect home for servers. In a time when more and more computational power is required to keep up with the massive amount of data that popular websites host and transmit, any benefit will go a long way—and the frigid polar temperatures might provide just that.

The Arctic has one major benefit in its favor when it comes to server hosting—the cold. Servers run hot, and effort spent cooling consumes more electricity and requires additional infrastructure and implementation into the design of both the servers themselves and the buildings that house them. These expenses and lapses in optimal efficiency are minor on their own, but they add up quickly, a problem that is remedied by the natural frigidity of the Arctic. It is theoretically possible that cold air from the outside could be dehumidified and used to fan the numerous server racks, both saving money and increasing efficiency.

igloo_valcellina_2_2806Slightly over a year ago, Facebook opened its new server, located around 70 miles from the circle’s edge in Sweden. Aided in part by the natural cooling of such a frigid environment, the servers have so far been as successful as expected—an early adopter, perhaps, of what the future of computing might be. The server itself is not vastly more impressive than other similar servers in more temperate areas, but it is one of the first to explore the idea of hosting data in an environment that is usually below freezing.

There are perhaps a few drawbacks to this system. Equatorial countries would benefit much less from the implementation of these servers, too far away from cold environments to efficiently access these servers. Here lies the main problem—latency, the time it takes to communicate to a server, increases with distance. So, we cannot fully rely on Arctic servers, as the distance would cause sites to appear to be slower-responding in equatorial countries due to high latency, even if they are technically faster at processing than servers that are located in more temperate environments.

However, this latency could work in the location’s favor for some environments. A server hosted on the North Pole (despite the fact that I do not believe we will have polar servers soon, if ever) would have approximately the same latency between northern Canada and Russia. This means that servers could, for the first time, host North American and European visitors without succumbing to debilitating high latency.

Perhaps, in the end, this will give an advantage to technology companies hoping to base their servers out of extremely cold environments—northern Scandinavia, Russia, Greenland, and Canada, could all theoretically benefit from the use of natural cooling on servers.  As servers become more and more demanding, perhaps this natural coolant will give these countries an edge in the technology world. Until then, though, great server clusters in the Arctic are nothing but a pipe dream.

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Categories: Science & Tech

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