The Floating Data Center: A New Way of Hosting Data?
When most people think of overseas hosting, a floating barge is probably the last thing they’d think of. But the idea of a floating data center isn’t as crazy as it seems. Google may have dabbled with the idea of putting its IT equipment on barges, but Nautilus Data Technologies Inc. aims to be the first company to actually put that idea into motion with its data center concept.
Based in Pleasanton, California, the company spent the previous months reconditioning and testing its prototype barge at the Mare Island Shipyard. Measuring at 235 feet long and 55 feet wide, the barge is capable of holding up to 540 racks of servers. The final design is set to hold 800 racks and consume 8 megawatts of power. The barges that’ll be used for the floating data centers are slated to last for up to 50 years.
The floating data center will also use water cooling to keep server temperatures down. But instead of using fresh water from elsewhere, the data center will pump water straight from the Stockton Deep Water Channel.
Using the very water the data center floats on has its advantages. For starters, using a body of water takes evaporation cooling out of the equation, a move that could save millions of gallons of water per year. It also eliminates the burden of finding and buying adequate water supplies, especially under the drought conditions that commonly affect California.
According to experts, the temperature differences between the incoming and outgoing water are also negligible. Not only is the outflow only 4 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the surrounding water, but the projected maximum temperature difference will only be a 1/10 of a degree Fahrenheit hotter. The end result is a negligible environmental impact.
Of course, skeptics are concerned about the effects of using salt water to cool IT equipment, not to mention the effects of just being in a saltwater environment. However, proponents have pointed out that Google already uses salt water to cool one of its land-based data centers. The vessels themselves are waterproof and it’s likely the equipment within will also be fortified against any possible corrosion.