Don't Discount The Floating Data Center Just Yet

Floating Data Center.
The floating data center — it sounds like some sort of futuristic feature in a sci-fi novel or movie, but it's actually a reality, and one that big brands like Google and Microsoft have gotten involved with. These centers are made up of technology, computers and monitors and lots and lots of wires. If you put enough of these devices together in a room, it's apt to get excessively hot to the point of the machines overheating and possibly even powering down. To combat the problem, water keeps the temperatures reasonable.

However, in many cases, the water that is needed to keep the technology from frying needs to be pure without any salt. While there are plenty of processes that exist to remove salt, these take a lot of time and manual effort and could also drain the world of its natural resources. Rather than rely exclusively on pure water, some companies have started implementing the floating barge, which can sit on seawater if necessary. As Sean Shado of CloudWedge wrote in his December 2014 piece, "The Practicality of Floating Data Centers," this isn't exactly the newest concept. "Mainstream news outlets began reporting on mysterious barges that were popping up off of the East and West coasts in the early 2010s," he writes.

As it turns out, these barges belong to Google. Sterling Faubel, a Dallas-based sustainable logistics and environmental expert, explains the Google barge as such: "The ocean water cools the equipment, while moon's gravity provides consistent power. Unlike other data centers, deconstruction is not required. When the center is needed elsewhere, move the ship...simple." The Guardian'sRory Carroll reported in October 2014 in a piece called "Google's worst-kept secret: floating data centers off US coasts" that you could spot these in the waters of Maine and California.

Google Patented

Google patented the idea of a floatingmeans of keeping data cool all the way back in 2009, which is no surprise considering that it's also spearheaded projects like smartphone-like glasses and a self-driving car. Carroll spoke with Cargotecture's leader Joel Egan, who certainly understands the containers and storage cases that are stacked up on these barges. "The cutouts in the long walls of the containers, when they line up, they make hallways. You could put all sorts of mainframes into the containers," he helpfully explained.

Of course, Google isn't the only major company to get into the idea of floating data centers. Microsoft also wanted to make its own infrastructure for years now, situating it in Wyoming, where biogas would serve as the fuel."The small data center is connected to the Supercomputing Center of the University of Wyoming and is not connected to the local power grid at all; it's completely autonomous and powered by renewable energy," Megan Treacy of Treehugger wrote in her December 2014 article called "Microsoft data center goes completely off grid."


According to Treacy, Microsoft's barge uses electrochemicals and a 300-kilowatt fuel cell to garner electric power from the biogas. This gas itself is actually borrowed from a nearby sewage treatment plant, making the barge totally sustainable. It could fit up to 200 servers. Clearly, those that think that the floating data center is an idea of the past should just look to Google and Microsoft to see that that's far from the case. 
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