Iceland’s Volcano Not a Serious Threat to Unseen’s Internet Service

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A lot of people are wondering…what’s going to happen with the internet service for Iceland with the volcano Bárðarbunga beginning to erupt? We spent quite a bit of time investigating this before we decided to move Unseen to Iceland.

Let’s first look at the geology of Iceland. The island of Iceland is volcanic in origin, it was formed by volcanic activity from the North American and European tectonic plates pulling apart. Over time and because of the opening of the plates in that particular location, the island was created and continues to grow to this day. It’s also the reason we have such clean and cheap power and hot water in Iceland from the volcano. Our rack at the Thor Data Center has about twice the power that you normally get in other European or US data centers. In fact, cheap power is the reason they built three very large aluminum smelters on the island and import bauxite ore from around the world.

Most of the vulcanism is focused in the center part of the island, away from the population center of Reykjavik. The Bárðarbunga volcano is 150 miles (as the puffin flies) from our data center. If there is a large eruption, the ash will fly to the south and east, towards Europe, this is why there is an airline alert right now. Volcanic ash isn’t very friendly to jet engines, so if the eruption gets big enough, they’ll have to stop service to the main EU countries until the ash clears. Here’s a map from the Iceland Meteorological Office:

volcano_status.0

The other component of an eruption is lava and pyroclastic flow, which in this case will include a lot of the glacier that’s on top of the mountain. This flows to the south, where there are many huge and beautiful valleys carved out from this kind of flow by past eruptions and the solid parts of the eruption flow to the ocean. Because this has happened many times before in Iceland, the internet there has been designed as a ring:

Iceland Ring Network

The landfall for the sub-oceanic fiber cables that carry your data in and out of Iceland are also situated in locations that are well away from this threat:

iceland internet

We’re watching the situation carefully and will keep everyone informed if there are any service disruptions. Moving Unseen to peer to peer architecture in the near future will make these kinds geological events of little import.

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