By: Tom Coughlin
Forbes Tech

Data Centers are a big consumer of electricity; even a moderately sized data center can consume the same amount of energy as a small city. With the growing volume of digital data generated by consumers and businesses that must be stored in these data centers and with the vast amounts of data that will be created by the Internet of Things and other emerging ways to generate large amounts of information, data centers will become more numerous and consume more power.

There are a number of innovative approaches to the design of data centers as well as the way that their services are sold, to make the most efficient and cost-effective offerings. There are also new developments that could allow greater flexibility and wider use of these increasingly critical elements to our digital civilization.

Aligned Data Centers are providing a “pay-for-use” data center in Plano, Texas. This 300,000 square foot, $300 M, 30 megawatt data center complex provides cutting edge energy efficiencies and plans to utilize a very efficient operating system that is expected to provide tremendous savings in energy and water consumption.

Traditional co-location models lock customers into a long-term contract for data center electrical power, that they may not use. This new model allows customers to pay for the electricity that they actually use. This eliminates the need to forecast IT demand and provide real-time control of required storage and processor capacity. As a result tenants are able to reduce energy and resource waste (power, cooling and water) and thus lower their operating costs.

A San Francisco Bay area data center company, Nautilus Data Technologies, is offering waterborne data centers that use the water surrounding the vessel to remove data center heat. Their Waterborne Data Center solution prototype should allow enterprises to dramatically reduce the costs of computing and storage while operating a environmentally sustainable data center.

A Tale of Two Data Centers

According to Nautilus a single mid-size data center can consume 130 million gallons of water a year (enough to supply nearly 2,000 people). The Nautilus approach consumes no water by putting disaster-resistance, marine-grade data centers on Coast Gauard certified barges in secure ports and using naturally-cooled water around the barge to reduce the temperature in the facility with no evaporation of water.

They report that the increase in temperature in the heating water is 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit and poses minimal environmental impact to the surrounding water. The waterborne vessel can be moved as needed and works in salty, brackish or fresh water. The annual savings in electricity costs for this new data center model are estimated at more than $4 M per year. Carbon emission reductions are estimated to be more than 19,000 tons per year.