San Francisco Business Times

Big data is big business.

But as more data becomes available to collect, analyze, interpret and ultimately capitalize on, one big challenge remains the banks of servers and the security and cooling systems needed to keep those data storage centers up and running.

While some big tech companies have turned to icy, far-flung locations like Sweden and Norway and even underground tunnels for data storage, one Pleasanton-based startup is turning to U.S. ports and waterways for a new storage solution.

Nautilus Data Technologies has built a working prototype vessel to serve as a floating, water-cooled data center.

“I was working with Microsoft in the ’90s and saw how data centers were getting bigger and more critical, and knew there was a better way to construct them,” said founder and Chief Technology Officer Arnold Magcale, who coupled his data security and U.S. Navy experience to launch the business.

“The problems we see with data centers are only getting bigger — from space to environmental impact to price and security — I knew we were on the wrong path and had to do something,” Magcale said.

The data center company says it is essentially using Navy technology that is more than 70 years old. Nautilus now has a working prototype vessel that it says can be tied to any secure port or waterway in the U.S. and can be built in one-third the time and hold the same data as land structures three times the size.

And by using water, rather than chemical coolants, as a cooling method, Magcale hopes more companies will see that their data doesn’t need to negatively impact the environment.

The startup has completed its proof of concept and is talking to potential customers that either want their own custom vessels or want to share space on communal vessels. With a few anchor tenants, Nautilus is hoping to get its first customer vessels up and running in the later part of 2016.

The vessels aren’t floating out at sea — they’re designed to be set at ports and in areas overseen by national security, and Nautilus is hiring U.S. veterans trained in securing sensitive material and data for the added security most clients are seeking.

“We know that the time it takes to get data centers up and running is often two or three years,” said CEO Jim Connaughton. “So we are hoping our six- to nine-month timetable will bring in the clients while the energy, water and environmental benefits keep them excited in our new solution to a $175 billion-a-year problem of data center development and maintenance.”