Cold air and geothermal power – Iceland hopes these two geographic facts of life will allow it to become a global power in datacenters.

The island nation is cranking up strategies to attract search engines and hosting providers, said Peter Gross, CEO of EYP Mission Critical Facilities, a company that designs datacenters. (Hewlett-Packard bought it and made EYP a subidiary.) Iceland faces some significant hurdles, especially since it's been so hard hit by the global credit crunch. The broadband connections to Europe will have to be improved. Ireland and Denmark, both of which have growing wind energy footprints, are better connected in terms of fiber.

The air in Iceland can also contain quite a bit of sulfur, which has to be filtered out. Still, the circumstances are attractive. Geothermal power has emerged as one of the country's most valuable commodities, Gross said. Data remains easier to export than power.

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