Datacentres take to the high seas

IDS, a US start-up, plans to open the first of 50 ship-borne floating datacentres at Pier 50 in San Francisco in April.

Floating datacentres are said to be much more environmentally friendly than land-based datacentres. Other green datacentre locations have previously included Siberia, Iceland, Smartbunker, a UK NATO military site, and a Japanese coalmine.

The company aims to have 22 container ships housing datacentres around the USA coastline and 28 elsewhere around the globe. The datacentres will be constructed in the ship's cargo space and also housed in shipping containers stacked on the deck, using products such as Sun's Blackbox and Rackable's ICE Cube. It is said that each ship will have a minimum of 200,000 square feet of potential datacentre space.

The Pier 50 ship already has its 'anchor' tenants. The full fleet of 50 decommissioned cargo ships is said to have already been purchased.

The ships will be moored in ports and have power and network connections run out to them. Power demands will be supplemented by on-ship generators running on the ship's bio-diesel supply, allowing sustained power outages of up to one month. To help reduce the demands on the cooling system for the generators and data containers, sea water will be used to cool the air-conditioning towers with a 30-40 percent power reduction expected. Waste heat from the datacentres will be re-used to heat the ship's accommodation.

As well as sea-water cooling, bio-diesel and re-use of waste heat, the floating datacentre's environmental credentials are increased by the ships themselves being recycled instead of scrapped.

These marine datacentres are being targeted at the disaster recovery market initially. The San Francisco area is well known for its San Andreas fault earthquake risk.

IDS says that a ship-borne datacentre can be commissioned in just a few months whereas building a land-based datacentre can take a year or more and be hindered by real estate constraints.

IDS stands for International Data Security and is run by CEO Ken Choi and president Richard Naughton, an ex-US Navy admiral.

It is a private company and is so new that it doesn't even have a website yet, or indeed, much of a presence via web search engines which is perhaps curious in that it is quite close to the launch of its first ship datacentre facility. A somewhat basic datasheet has come to light. It is not known if IDS is going to be (ahem) floated.

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