Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Cloud computing centre for city

The centre would be an alternative to storing data on individual computers

The weather is among the reasons why Inverness has been selected for a planned computer complex offering data storage for people and businesses.

IT firm Alchemy Plus, an expert in Microsoft technology, is behind the 20m "cloud computing" project, earmarked for the city harbour.

The region's colder weather will help cool the many computers needed.

The aim of the centre is to offer an alternative to storing data on individual PCs.

Instead, applications and services would be delivered over the internet - allowing people and firms to log into them from anywhere.

Highlands-based Alchemy Plus said it was preparing a planning application to be submitted early next year and hoped to have the centre running by the end of 2010. It has been estimated the project would create 400 jobs.

This is a field in which Inverness and the Highlands can excel and we need to take full advantage of the opportunities it offers
Stewart Nicol
Inverness Chamber of Commerce

Similar "cloud computing" services providing a secure location for storing information are being offered by Microsoft and Google.

The hardware required and the high levels of electrical power needed to run the system generate large amounts of heat.

Alchemy Plus said waste energy from its 20,000sq ft centre would be used to warm nearby buildings.

Meanwhile, colder climates reduced the cost of having to install lots of artificial refridgeration.

The temperature in Inverness on Monday was -2C and a temperature of -4C was forecast for Tuesday.

Steve Chisolm, chief executive officer with the firm, said: "Much thought has gone into developing an environmentally-friendly solution that reduces energy consumption and waste while satisfying a rapidly growing demand for cheaper and more flexible IT services that enhance business value."

Raymond O'Hare, director of Microsoft Scotland, said the project was "great news" for the Highlands and Scotland.

Tidal scheme

Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, said: "This project will really put the city on the map for developments in information technology.

"This is a field in which Inverness and the Highlands can excel and we need to take full advantage of the opportunities it offers."

In October, tidal power developer Atlantis Resources Corporation confirmed it was considering a site near Castle of Mey in Caithness for a computer data centre.

The plan - still in the early stages - would see the centre powered by a tidal scheme in the Pentland Firth.

US financial giant Morgan Stanley is a major shareholder in Atlantis.

Also in October, Microsoft unveiled a cloud computing service in California.

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