The Practicality of Floating Data Centers

by Sean Shado    |   

Could floating data centers help keep data center infrastructures cool using the water available from the seas below. It’s a whacky thought that’s starting to get some serious consideration from some of the world top data center designers. It’s no secret that the Earth is covered by 75% water and water is commonly used to cool equipment in data centers. Given these two facts, it became clear that bringing the data center closer to the water could have some serious advantages for data center designers looking to conserve energy. Do the disadvantages outweigh the advantages of using a floating data center?

Main stream news outlets began reporting on mysterious barges that were popping up off of the East and West coasts in the early 2010s. After further investigation, Daniel Terdiman from CNET obtained enough evidence to conclude that these structures were floating data centers belonging to Google. Floating data centers are designed to use less energy using the free cooling resources found in the waters below. Although the idea is now becoming main stream, Google actually patented a floating data center back in 2009.

DataCenter Hardware and Salt Water: What could go wrong?

That’s the obvious question regarding floating data centers. The idea seemed far fetched at first however there are some counter points that can be made. The shipping containers used to build floating data centers are already waterproofed. In fact, most electronics components come to America from China in these same types of containers. It’s also important to note that Google bought a former paper mill in Finland because the company was using salt water as a way to cool down its facilities. Google took the technology and converted the entire facility in an energy efficient data center that utilizes salt water for cooling.

Tech insiders have been referring to Google’s floating data center infrastructures as Google Data Ships. When organizations need to maximize their data centers cost efficiency, fringe infrastructures such as data ships become a reality. While Google is primarily known for their search engine, Google is at the cutting edge of data center technology.

It should be noted that some sources are reporting that Google has sold its barges located on both the East and West coasts. This begs the obvious question: While Google has spent some considerable research and development on float data centers, can we really know if floating data centers will be the data centers of the future if Google has scrapped its operations?

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Sean Shado

Sean Shado


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