ODC-Noord: The Netherland’s northernmost government data center is committed to a zero carbon future

One of four government data centers in the Netherlands, Overheidsdatacenter Noord (ODC-Noord), the northernmost facility of its kind in The Netherlands, is located in the picturesque city of Groningen. With nearly 140 employees, the high-performance data center provides government agencies with mission-critical compute, storage, and networking solutions needed to provide important services to citizens.

Offering Housing-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, and Infrastructure-as-a-Service featuring ODC-Noord currently serves around 40 customers. These include numerous government ministries and agencies that serve citizens of the Netherlands. One of the provided services is the high availability and performance of the VMware based vCloud platform.

“We provide scalable ICT services in accordance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cloud computing reference architecture for business applications,” says Jaap Jansma, manager at ODC-Noord. “This includes not only HaaS, PaaS, and IaaS, but also the supporting facilities for development of custom software, as well as solutions for DevOps teams—among them Kubernetes test and production environments and applications for specific use cases, including data science and deep analytics.”

ODC-Noord’s agile teams are comprised of skilled personnel. These experts not only develop, but also manage and maintain all of the organization’s services.

“Our teams are driven, enterprising and a bit headstrong,” adds Jansma. “These are qualities that serve us well in our dedicated work to provide high-quality and innovative services to our customers.”

Those services also reflect ODC-Noord’s commitment to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 and to serve as a partner who can help government agencies further their own sustainability goals. Jansma notes that’s why the decision to embrace the VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative was a natural one.

“As a public-sector organization, we are included in the Dutch government’s diligent efforts to create a carbon-free energy system, but at ODC-Noord, we also feel strongly that it is our responsibility as a service provider to do everything we can to reduce the impact of ICT on the environment,” says Jansma. “The migration to software-defined data centers was an important step in the right direction, but it’s just the beginning. The VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative builds on that momentum and is a natural next step.”

Notably, ODC-Noord already runs on 100% renewable energy sources, among them hydro, wind and solar power. Servers are also controlled with advanced power management solutions to maximize their efficiency. There are also plans to use residual heat to heat 10,000 homes and buildings in Groningen.

Outside air is also used to cool the data center—radically reducing the need for traditional air conditioning systems. Even the basic design of the facility uses natural airflows in which colder air sinks and warmer air rises to minimize the use of heating and cooling systems. In 2022, the average Energy Usage Effectiveness, or EUE, of ODC-Noord was an impressive 1.25.

Other steps, including ODC-Noord’s goal to transition to hydrogen are far reaching and ambitious, but Jansma notes that every step, large and small, is important.

“We’ve already stitched to a hydrogen-powered backup utility offered by one of our suppliers, NorthC, which is big step forward, and our innovations in power management enabled us to reduce the power usage of 40% of our assets, including servers, by 90%,” he says. “We’re also working with our suppliers to institute sustainability rating certifications and to reduce the amount of packaging—for example we recently eliminated the packaging of individual items with one of our cable vendors—and we are recycling hardware in-house to ensure it’s done right. And of course, there are myriad small steps we take each day, from recycling in our offices to promoting public transportation. It’s all important.”

Jansma believes the VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative is a powerful way not only to support these efforts, but to make them part of the conversation with customers. It’s a conversation he believes must occur.

“We are living in a world where it seems that the sky is the limit, but we are realizing that we have to be careful with everything our planet gives us,” he says. “For a sustainable future, and for the future of our children, it is our duty to invest in a zero carbon footprint.”

Learn more about ODC-Noord and its partnership with VMware here.

Cloud Computing, Green IT