|www.helsinginsanomat.fi/english||print | close window|
Google gives journalists tour of former paper factory, future data centre
The concrete production hall is big, empty, and messy in places. About 20 journalists wearing construction helmets and reflector vests walk around the area.
Many of them have visited paper mills, but probably none have been in the bowels of a search engine before.
Google’s Joseph Kava, who is responsible for the company’s data centres, asks that the group stay within the path marked out by the wooden fences.
“There are big holes in the floor going down to the lower level, and we don’t want you to fall in”, he shouts.
Google has opened the curtains of secrecy a few inches and organised a rare tour of the data centre which it is setting up in the old Stora Enso Summa paper mill, which was recently shut down.
The conversion of the factory is still in its early stages.
A year from now there will be rows of servers stacked on top of each other, storing data that the Google search engine and other online services will need for its operations.
The company has a number of such centres around the world, but it rarely says anything about them.
It came as a great surprise in Finland when Stora Enso announced in February last year that it had sold its Summa paper mill to Google for EUR 40 million.
The conversion of a paper factory into a data centre could be seen as symbolic of the computer age.
The centre is to be fully operational either late this year or in early 2011. Joe Kava notes that when it is in operation, it is unlikely that there will be any more journalists’ tours of the facility.
The journalists have plenty of questions.
How many servers will there be? “Thousands.”
Will Google services work faster in Helsinki, for instance, when the nearest data centre opens up in Hamina?
“Hard to say. The user will probably not notice the difference of ten milliseconds.”
Are you looking for Finnish employees for the centre?
“Absolutely. There are excellent candidates here.”
The arrival of Google has become virtually a source of national pride for Finland, although its employment impact is set to be modest.
The construction phase is giving jobs to hundreds of people, but when it is fully operational, the data centre will provide jobs for about 50.
This is relatively small, compared to job numbers at many other former paper and pulp mills converted to other uses.
Much of the estimated EUR 200 million that Google is investing in the project will be spent on servers and other equipment.
So was it such a big jackpot for Finland to get the data centre to Finland, or is Summa merely the dusty back-room of a search engine company?
Jari Ängeslevä, Investment Director of the ICT Sector of Invest in Finland feels that the benefits of Google's investment go far beyond the number of jobs at the centre. The main advantage is the boost to Finland's reputation as a target of investments.
Ängeslevä expect’s Google’s move to spark more interest in Finland among international companies.
“This has already been seen in an increase in clientele for us.”
After the tour, Google offers the journalists lunch. One of the company’s representatives notes that Google’s data centres usually spark interest in the countries that they are set up in.
Later, the curiosity of the media and the public wanes, as data centres are ultimately rather boring places.