By: Mike Wheatley
Silicon Angle

We’ve seen a number of novel approaches in the data center industry aimed at reducing energy consumption, from building facilities above the Arctic Circle to using water misters for evaporative cooling. Now, a startup called Nautilus Data Technologies Inc. from Pleasanton, California, has put forward a radical new idea – the floating data center.

Last week, Nautilus announced it’s already building the world’s first commercial “data barge” at the Mare Island Naval Complex north of San Francisco. Enterprise Tech reports that the company actually came out of stealth earlier this year, with the promise of higher energy efficiency than standard data centers, competitive pricing, and greater mobility and security due to its waterborne nature. Once construction on its first floating data center is completed, the barge will be moved to a “secure port” and begin looking for customers to rent out some of its data center capacity too.

But why a floating data center? The answer is simple – Nautilus touts a number of benefits, including significant power savings and also water cooling savings. According to the startup, its data barge will consume up to 30 percent less energy than traditional data centers while saving on up to 130 million gallons of water per year.

The project has attracted some keen interest, with Silicon Valley-based firms like A10 Networks and Applied Materials, as well as the U.S. Navy, all expressing an interest in renting some of its data center capacity.

Despite the novelty of having a data center floating on water, Kirk Horton, the VP of sales and marketing at Nautilus, told Data Center Knowledge that customers were more interested in how the company achieves such high levels of energy and how they can deliver the kind of costs savings they promise.

“They see this massive 230-foot barge, and the whole notion of this being on water is out of their mind,” Horton said, adding that its data barges can be deployed in any port that meets its power, network and security requirements and moved to a new location when necessary.

What this means is that Nautilus’ data barges could be an ideal solution to meet the demand for greater data center capacity in “edge” locations to serve new, growing markets.

Nautilus is set to commission its first floating data center by the first quarter of next year, built atop of a ship called the Eli M. Once it’s ready to set sail, the barge will be moored off of an undisclosed location on the West Coast.