Head of Technology & Services Portfolio
Sweden’s largest and northernmost county, Norrbotten (North Bothnia), is of huge strategic importance to the country’s economy.
The city of Kiruna has the world’s largest underground iron-ore mine. Base metals and gold can be found in the area too. Norrbotten is also rich in timber manufacturing. In addition to these traditional industries, the region produces massive volumes of both hydro and wind power. This renewable energy has led to the establishment of multiple eco-friendly data centers, as well as Europe’s largest factory producing lithium-ion batteries.
With so much critical infrastructure to support – as well as 250,000 citizens to serve – the region’s 14 municipalities came together to introduce a sovereign-cloud solution developed by Tietoevry and powered by cloud-software leader VMware.
Cloud sovereignty is a principle whereby a network complies with strict regulations and security protocols. For Sweden and other EU countries, data must be stored locally and managed by a company under EU jurisdiction. It’s about protecting critical infrastructure from outside interference and keeping people’s data from falling into the wrong hands.
“With the introduction of a sovereign-cloud platform in Norrbotten, the region is protecting its vital interests, securing citizens’ data, and ensuring equal access to digital services. There’s a significant environmental benefit too,” says Alberto Valero, Vice President, Technology and Growth at Tietoevry Connect.
Prior to the implementation, Norrbotten’s municipalities were running their IT operations through 28 local data centers. The new platform introduces a single local data center from Hydro 66 that runs on 100% hydropower. More than half the center’s heat can be recovered, and water-usage efficiency is approximately 30 times higher than a standard solution. It’s thought to be one of the greenest data centers in the world.
“Digital infrastructure is critical infrastructure, as other industries are dependent on it,” says Valero. “Cloud sovereignty helps to guard against disruptions from the outside so that citizens can continue with their daily lives. This is especially important in highly digitized societies like we have in the Nordics, where cloud penetration is the highest in Europe.”
“Data storage is a big part of the cloud-sovereignty picture too. Approximately 92% of the data produced in the western hemisphere is stored in the United States. Yet data has value and should be protected and reinvested into the societies and communities where it’s produced. This way it can fuel local digital services and AI-led innovation,” he says.
One of Norrbotten’s features is its sheer size. The county is larger than Portugal and accounts for approximately one quarter of Sweden’s landmass. Half of Norrbotten’s 250,000 citizens are concentrated in four of the 14 municipalities – the rest are spread out across the vast and remote region. A three-hour drive to the nearest urban centre is not uncommon.
But isolated does not mean inaccessible in Norrbotten. The region’s municipalities have long been interconnected via a modern fibre network. Now their collaboration has taken a leap forward with the introduction of the sovereign-cloud platform for all the region’s key digital services, including those for healthcare, education, employment, permits and more.
“The mission with this project was to create an easier everyday life for individuals and businesses, while being secure and sustainable,” says Valero. “Municipalities are the closest touchpoint to citizens, so the services they provide need to be continuous across rural regions. Service continuity is also critical for local industries and businesses.”
“This was a very special case for Tietoevry and VMware. It’s the first time we’ve been able to test the power of our sovereign-cloud solution, which we believe is the most powerful in Europe. Cloud sovereignty at European grade is built into the entire Norrbotten network,” he says.
The Norrbotten municipalities’ sovereign cloud has become the blueprint for municipal cloud across Sweden, Norway and Finland. Following the implementation, Tietoevry has continued to expand its sovereign-cloud capabilities with the aim of enhancing the digital sovereignty of all segments and industries in the Nordics.
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This case is published in our annual report 2021 – read the whole report here.