No doubt, the next data centre will be water cooled.

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James L. Connaughton, President and CEO, Nautilus Data Technologies, speaks exclusively with Hannah Jo Uy on the company’s patented water cooling technology and the future of data centres…

What drove the company to pursue this approach?

The company was formed five years ago by a group of engineers and information technology executives with a proposition that current methodology for air conditioning data centres is utterly unsustainable, when it comes to the future computing that lies ahead. You have to rethink the right building envelope for the cooling of thousands of servers. Our design criteria was how do you accomplish direct water cooling at the lowest capex with the lowest opex and with the smallest environmental footprint. And to do it in a way that can be applied anywhere in the world. I say this because there are some clever niche applications that are specific to particular geographies. The other piece of our mission was to do this in a way that could help accelerate access to modern data services by people in emerging economies.

Can you highlight the operational benefits of these solutions? In your opinion, why are current data centres inefficient?

We improve the energy efficiency of the cooling system by 40–80%. The industry average power usage effectiveness (PUE), according to the U.S. Department of Energy, is about 1.7. New data centres are doing better. We are 80% more efficient than the industry standard and about 30% more efficient than some of the newer designs. We are also able to accomplish this at about half the possible expense. The more efficient data centres accomplish that at a higher capex. Our solution also uses a lot less material. That is just the energy efficiency of the cooling system, which means our net energy efficiency for the whole data centre is 30-40%.

Secondly, we don’t rely on potable water to run an evaporative cooling system. We lower consumption and eliminate the burden on waste water treatment systems. Next, we don’t need to abuse any chemical refrigerants, greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances.

Finally, because we are efficient in our cooling, we can handle three times, or more, the number of computers and servers in the same space, hence, our real estate efficiency is better. Also, we want quiet and cool; it’s an attractive environment for data centre operations.

Ironically, air conditioning is very inefficient and imposes a big burden on public water systems. Water cooling doesn’t consume water. The great advantage of our systems is that its pumps and pipes, the atmospheric intrusion is significantly diminished as opposed to air-handling units. Water cooling by any measure, is a lot more energy efficient than evaporative air cooling systems. The hardest places to cool data centres are in the equatorial region. The Middle East is hot and dry, the Pacific like Singapore is hot and wet. Water cooling is ideally suited for cooling data centres in the region compared to air conditioning methods currently being used.

In a place like the Middle East, we have an advantage. Our cooling system can efficiently generate hot water that can lower the cost of desalination, or other industrial applications. We have the advantage of co-location with other industrial infrastructure to improve efficiency. We are designed to be mega modular, in that we pre-fabricate what we do and assemble it on site, systems are simpler and the process of building a data centre is faster.

Water cooling for heat exchange has been used for over 100 years. Why did data centres not follow this methodology?

Several of our team, including me, come from other sectors. Water cooling is traditional for heat exchange. When we came to bring expertise to data centre cooling, we were surprised that data centres did not employ that technique. Data centres became an arm of real estate development. Techniques adapted for data centres worked and innovation stopped. It worked for a lot of engineering and vendors that are heavily invested in the approach, and now everyone uses it.

We classically are entering the market with a much more effective product that takes engineering skill and production skill and does it at a scale and reliability that data centres require. We made the investment to figure all that out. What’s interesting is, as indicated, the system’s much simpler and more reliable to operate. It delivers a very reliable cooling regardless of the load in the server rack. We can support configurations of 120 kilowatts of load, which means we can have high performance computing, [which is] widely commercially available and affordable.

Do you need regulations to encourage uptake of this solution in the market?

I am an ardent practitioner of free market environmentalism. I believe if you can invent a technology that delivers the same or better performance at the same or lower cost in terms of environmental impact, you can accomplish a lot more, faster. We are an example of that. We make sense economically, operationally and environmentally. We don’t need help from the government, because we have a better product…. There is no doubt in my mind that the next data centres will be water cooled.

We have had a high level of interest from all the major players, who are waiting the construction of our first facility to look at the commercial operability of what we are doing and that includes a number of entities that will be customers in the first production. We do have to educate on an enterprise-toenterprise basis.

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Chad Romine

Chad Romine has over two decades of experience in technical and strategic business development. As Vice President of Business Development for Nautilus Data Technologies, Mr. Romine brings global connectivity to some of the most prominent global influencers in technology. Mr. Romine has led startups and under-performing companies to successful maturity built largely upon solid partnerships. Proven results in negotiating mutually beneficial strategic alliances and joint ventures. Outside of work, Chad has invested time fundraising for the American Cancer Society. Mr. Romine recently helped secure funding and led marketing for the completion of a new private University.

Ashley Sturm

Ashley Sturm is a marketing and strategy leader with more than 15 years of experience developing strategic marketing initiatives to increase brand affinity, shape the customer experience, and grow market share. As the Vice President of Marketing at Nautilus Data Technologies, Ashley is responsible for all global marketing initiatives; she integrates the corporate strategy, marketing, branding, and customer experience to best serve clients and produce real business results. Before joining Nautilus Data Technologies, she served as the Senior Director of Marketing Brand and Content for NTT Global Data Centers Americas, spearheading marketing efforts to open two out of six data center campuses. Prior to NTT, Ashley led global marketing through the startup of Vertiv’s Global Data Center Solutions business unit, where she developed the unit’s foundational messaging and established global and regional marketing teams. Ashley’s career experience includes extensive work with the US Navy through the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness as well as broadcast journalism. Ashley earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in converged media from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.

Paul Royere

Paul Royere is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Nautilus Data Technologies. For more than twenty years, he has specialized in finance and administration leadership for emerging technology companies, guiding them through high growth commercialization. In addition to senior team roles guiding strategic business operations, Mr. Royere has directed cross-functional teams in implementing business support systems, designing and measuring business plan performance, leading pre/post-merger activities, and delivering requisite corporate, tax and audit compliance.

While at 365 Data Centers, Mr. Royere served as Vice President of Finance leading a multi-discipline restructuring in preparation for the successful sale of seventeen data centers. As Vice President and Corporate Controller at Reliance Globalcom, Royere led the finance and business support teams to and through the conversion from a privately held company to a subsidiary of an international public conglomerate.

Arnold Magcale

Arnold Magcale is founder and Chief Technology Officer of Nautilus Data Technologies. As a recognized leader and respected visionary in the technology industry, he specializes in data center infrastructure, high-availability networks, cloud design, and Software as a Service (SaaS) Technology.

While serving on the management team of Exodus Communications, he launched one of Silicon Valley’s first data centers. Mr. Magcale’s background includes executive positions at Motorola Mobility, where his team deployed the first global Droid devices, and LinkSource Technologies and The Quantum Capital Fund, serving as Chief Technology Officer. He was an early adopter and implementer of Cloud Computing and a member of the team at Danger, Inc., acquired by Microsoft.


Mr. Magcale had a distinguished ten year career in the United States Navy Special Forces. His military and maritime expertise provided the foundation for inventing the world’s first commercial waterborne data center.

Patrick Quirk

Patrick Quirk is a business and technology executive who specializes in operations management, strategic partnerships, and technology leadership in data center, telecommunications, software, and semiconductor markets. Prior to joining Nautilus, he spent the past year working with small businesses and non-profits on survival and growth strategies in addition to PE advisory roles for critical infrastructure acquisitions. Quirk was the President of Avocent Corp, a subsidiary of Vertiv, the Vice President and General Manager for the IT Systems business, and the VP/GM of Converged Systems at Emerson Network Power, providing data center management infrastructure for data center IT, power, and thermal management products. He has held numerous global leadership roles in startups and large multinational companies including LSI and Motorola in the networking and semiconductor markets.

Rob Pfleging

Most recently, Rob was the Senior Vice President of Global Solutions at Vertiv Co, formerly Emerson Network Power. Vertiv Co is an international company that designs, develops and maintains critical infrastructures that run vital applications in data centers, communication networks and commercial and industrial facilities. Rob was responsible for the global solutions line of business at ​​Vertiv, which serves the Americas, Europe and Asia. Prior to Vertiv, Rob was the Vice President of Expansion and Innovation, Datacenter Engineering at CenturyLink, where he was responsible for 55 datacenters across North America, Europe and Asia. Before working for CenturyLink, Rob was the Executive Director of Computer/Data Center Operations at Mercy, where he led datacenter engineering and operations, desktop field services, call center services, and asset management and logistics for more than 40 hospitals. Before fulfilling this mission at Mercy, Rob held various engineering management and sales positions at Schneider Electric. Rob Pfleging additionally served for 6 years in the United States Marine Corps.

James Connaughton

James Connaughton is a globally distinguished energy, environment, technology expert, as both corporate leader and White House policymaker. Mr. Connaughton is the CEO of Nautilus Data Technologies, a high-performance, ultra-efficient, and sustainable data center infrastructure company powered by its proprietary water-cooling system. Before joining Nautilus Data Technologies, he served as Executive Vice President of C3.ai, a leading enterprise AI software provider for accelerating digital transformation.

From 2009-2013, Mr. Connaughton was Executive Vice President and a member of the Management Committee of Exelon and Constellation Energy, two of America’s cleanest, competitive suppliers of electricity, natural gas, and energy services. In 2001, Mr. Connaughton was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate to serve as Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. He served as President George W. Bush’s senior advisor on energy, environment, and natural resources, and as Director of the White House Office of Environmental Policy. During his eight-year service, Mr. Connaughton worked closely with the President, the Cabinet, and the Congress to develop and implement energy, environment, natural resource, and climate change policies. An avid ocean conservationist, Mr. Connaughton helped establish four of the largest and most ecologically diverse marine resource conservation areas in the world.

Mr. Connaughton is a member of the Advisory Board of the ClearPath Foundation and serves as an Advisor to X (Google’s Moonshot Factory) and Shine Technologies, a medical and commercial isotope company. He is also a member of the Board of Directors at the Resources for the Future and a member of the Advisory Boards at Yale’s Center on Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia’s Global Center on Energy Policy.