The world’s first floating data center finally goes live

For the first time, Nautilus Data Technologies (NDT) announced its intention to create a full-fledged floating data center several years ago. In 2015, she developed and tested a prototype, after which she confirmed her intention to create a data center on water. And this is not a miniature computing center, but a full-fledged DC of a relatively large area. At the very beginning, the company announced that it would use a barge as a platform – and so it happened.

The other day the company reported about the start of operation of its first data center, which is located on the water. As planned, the energy efficiency of a floating data center is much higher than that of conventional data centers. But about all this – below.

Why do data centers float on water?

There are a few pluses here:

  • The main thing is water, which in the case of floating data centers is partially or completely free, and you can take it from anywhere.
  • Another advantage is mobility. Nautilus Floating Data Center can be deployed virtually anywhere in the world with the necessary infrastructure. There are not so few such places.
  • Saving. A floating data center does not need land, which is very expensive in many regions. In addition, due to the features of the cooling system, the cost of heat removal is reduced by at least a third.

Such an object can be used both as the main data center and as an auxiliary one.

If you want an example, here’s the first one. Suppose a Singaporean company lacks computing power. She can quickly deploy an additional data center, without the need to buy land, which is very expensive in this region, lay infrastructure and perform all other related work.

The data center is already ready – it just sails to the port of Singapore, all the necessary communications, electricity, water and everything are connected to it – the data center can work. After there is no need for additional power, the data center quietly floats away.

The second example is a region affected by a natural disaster such as an earthquake, flood or hurricane. Temporarily a data center from Nautilus can duplicate the computing power of the restored main data center in a region of one of the companies or several organizations at once.

Okay, what does Nautlius offer there?

The company has finally launched its Stockton I data center. It is now moored in the Port of Stockton, California, USA. This is already a fully functional infrastructure facility, and not a barge with equipment piled up on it.

This is how the barge looked like, which served as the basis for the data center. The ship was launched back in 1969, so that it fulfilled its main task long ago.

According to the engineers who developed the floating data center, its service life is quite long, subject to proper operation – tens of years. Cooling systems are located below deck, while network equipment and all other peripherals are located on deck, in a special superstructure.

As for the energy consumption, which they promised to talk about at the very beginning of the article, it is lower than that of conventional data centers thanks to water. It does not need to be pumped through pipelines from afar, the power consumption of the DC is lower than that of a standard facility of similar capacity. The floating data center had a PUE of 1.15. According to calculations carried out by environmental experts, the negative impact of the facility on the environment is minimal. Local and even more so global ecosystems will not be affected.

The seawater is passed through a sophisticated stainless steel piping system. The system also includes turbine pumps, heat exchangers, valves and other elements. The system pumps about 17,000 liters of water per minute; if necessary, this volume can be increased up to 45,000 liters.

In terms of power, it exceeds 100 kW per rack, and the total capacity of the data center reaches 7 MW. The total area for equipment placement is about 90 m2

The company has previously stated that this data center is the first pilot project. If it shows itself well, in the near future several more similar objects will be launched. Some will be used to provide colocation services, and some will be released for the needs of specific clients.

The company is currently building another floating data center at the docks of Limerick, Ireland. The cost of such an object is about $ 35 million.Nautilus Data Technologies (NDT) received about $ 100 million for the overall project.

Something else

The Chinese have recently presented their project of a water data center, only this is not a floating object. This is an underwater DC developed by Beijing Highlander Digital Technology Co. Its profile is the development and production of shipboard electronic equipment and systems. The project partner is the Chinese shipbuilding company Guangzhou Shipyard International Co.

The company’s goal is to create a data center that does not take up space on the shore, does not have cooling towers and does not consume fresh water.

Over the next five years, the company plans establish a series of underwater data centers in coastal waters, including the Hainan Free Trade Port (FTP), the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), the Yangtze River Delta and the Bohai Rim Economic Circle (BREC).

Testing of the company’s first underwater DC will be carried out from June 2021 to May 2022. Commercial use of the subsea systems, if all goes according to plan, is slated for the second half of 2023. The project has attracted a number of large companies, including China Mobile, Lenovo, China Communications Service Construction and Qi’anxin Technology Group, which have already signed contracts.

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