Verne Global, the data center operator which established Iceland as a destination for high-performance computing, has been acquired by Digital 9 Infrastructure plc (D9) for £231 million (about $320 million US).

The deal highlights investor interest in digital infrastructure assets with a sustainability story, and closely follows a July transaction in which another operator with strong environmental credentials, Norway’s Green Mountain Data Centers, was bought up for $850 million.

“This is another key step to support decarbonizing the data center industry,” said Thor Johnsen, Head of Digital Infrastructure at Triple Point, D9’s Investment Manager. “For society to meet key decarbonization goals, we need to look for ways to shift energy consumptive activities to areas of surplus renewable energy.
The digital infrastructure industry has an increasing energy footprint, particularly data centers, which need to become more energy efficient and green.”

Digital 9 (D9) is a UK-based investment fund created to acquire a range of digital infrastructure companies, including data centers, fiber, subsea cables and telecom tower and small cell networks. D9 raised £300 million ($422.9 million) in an IPO in London last spring to fund its acquisitions, similar in concept to the SPACs (special purpose acquisition corporations) in the U.S. markets. It then acquired Aqua Comms, a subsea cable specialist.

D9 said its purchase of Verne Global “accelerates the investment trust’s ambition to decarbonize digital infrastructure by increasing access to data centers in areas where there are abundant supplies of clean energy.”

Establishing Iceland as a Data Center Destination

Verne Global built its data center campus on a 40-acre property in a former NATO command center, takes advantage of Iceland’s vast supply of renewable energy (hydroelectric and geothermal), along with a cool climate that allows the year-round use of outside air for free cooling for the entire year.

“Data centers form a key part of the digital infrastructure backbone,” said Johnsen. “Verne Global’s existing Icelandic based data center assets represent some of the cleanest, lowest carbon footprint data centers, globally.

“We are thrilled to add the Verne Global platform to the growing D9 portfolio,” Johnsen added. “Together with the D9 subsea investment in Aqua Comms, we are pursuing further fiber network opportunities to improve connectivity into the Nordics, enabling data center users reliable and low cost access to the vast renewable and low-cost energy resources of Iceland and the Nordics.”

Verne found its niche in high-performance computing, especially in data crunching for applications in financial services, manufacturing and life science. The company has operated as a wholesale data center provider, selling turn-key space in data suites and modules where customers can deploy their IT gear.

A key selling point for Verne Global is Iceland's supply of hydro power, generated by dams like this one at the Ljósafossstöð hydroelectric plant on the River Sog. (Photo: Rich Miller)

A key selling point for Verne Global is Iceland’s supply of hydro power, generated by dams like this one at the Ljósafossstöð hydroelectric plant on the River Sog. (Photo: Rich Miller)

In 2017, Verne Global launched hpcDIRECT, moving up the value chain into the “as a service” cloud territory. It was also an early player in variable resiliency services, supplementing its traditional Tier III infrastructure with an offering that provided data center space supported only by grid power, an option popular with customers doing batch processing and cryptocurrency.

“What Verne Global has achieved over the last decade is a fantastic accomplishment and is a great acknowledgement of the exceptional team that we have,” said Dominic Ward, CEO of Verne Global. ““We are absolutely delighted to become part of the Digital 9 Infrastructure platform. Its mission to support and develop highly-resilient digital infrastructures that fuel innovation, but are also sustainable and inclusive, resonates tremendously with Verne Global’s own business objectives. As we look forward, we are now hugely excited to be working with D9 and believe that we have the perfect partner to help power our future.”

Verne Global’s investors included Wellcome Trust, Stefnir, Novator Partners, and General Catalyst Partners.

“When we founded Verne Global in 2007 with our friends at General Catalyst, we had the ambitious goal of building the first green data center in the world that would serve the global enterprise market,” said Birgir Már Ragnarsson, Managing Partner at Novator Partners. “We saw Iceland as the best place for high intensity compute, using 100 percent renewable energy, free cooling, long term energy contracts and a tech savvy, highly educated workforce.

“Now close to 15 years later, we are super proud to say that we achieved our goal thanks to the brilliant team at Verne Global and our co-investors from the Welcome Trust and Stefnir. Verne Global is already a clear winner as a green sustainable data center serving global customers, and now has the opportunity to grow even further under new ownership.”

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