Eyjólfur Magnús Kristinsson
Icelandic high density computing firm atNorth is leading the charge for carbon-neutral data centres. CEO Eyjólfur Magnús Kristinsson, previously Managing Director at Advania, which acquired the company as a smaller side project in 2011, has been CEO since that point, but devoted himself full-time to the role in 2018 as the company rapidly picked up pace. “The reason for that is the exponential growth of data,” he explains. “And with that comes the need for computational work to crunch that data. That’s why we’re seeing the data centre industry growing by around 16% annually at the moment, which I expect to continue for at least the next five years.”
Within the data centre industry, atNorth focuses on a specific part of the market particularly suited to the infrastructure it provides across its facilities in Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK. “We specialise in energy-hungry workloads that require a lot of cooling - typically these workloads include things like high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, deep learning, big data and so on. We take care of everything within the high-performance computing and artificial intelligence (AI) arena with on-demand computational resources.”
A key part of atNorth’s offering is its commitment to using 100% sustainable energy in its operations, and reducing energy use in general with initiatives such as using the naturally colder air of its northerly locations for cooling purposes. “Sustainability is a fundamental strategy and the company's mission is providing sustainable and energy-efficient solutions to its customers. As we provide a home for energy-intensive workloads, it’s important to use energy from renewable resources, but we've also designed our data centres from the ground up so we can use less energy in general. We offer customers flexible solutions to minimise their carbon footprint - not only in terms of energy but also in terms of space and infrastructure needed.” That focus on sustainability is not only to the benefit of its customers. “For our newest project in Sweden, we are working with the local district heating company, and using the excess of heat from the data centres to warm local residents.”
atNorth encourages an open atmosphere with a flat company structure. “I like to empower my employees and listen very carefully to everyone's ideas and thoughts,” says Kristinsson. “We have incredible talent in our company among our employees, and I basically see my role as being to nurture that talent. It’s a very Nordic leadership style, which works particularly well in a small company like atNorth. It's very important to enhance the dynamics of a flat structure with openness and transparency, so everyone can know how important they are to executing our strategy.”
Looking to the future, Kristinsson expects high-density workloads to continue to play a vital role in powering the rapid growth of the data centre sector. “It’s all derived from emerging technologies such as 5G, IoT, AI, deep learning and more. We are specifically catering to this fastest-growing segment within the tech sector.” He’s clear that atNorth will continue to ensure that sustainability remains at the heart of the conversation through its sector-leading solutions. “We want to provide the best service to our customers in this space, while obviously using renewable energy only to do, and give them higher energy efficiency than competitors.”
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We can't be very much more CO2 efficient because we have pushed the laws of physics to the point where you can't change physics.