Google barge could change data room cooling processes
Thursday, Oct 31st 2013

Data center temperature has influenced facility operations in many ways as optimal conditions are necessary to keeping servers running at max performance. Organizations have tried out a number of different cooling methods in order to find the one that yields the most benefits. Some go with the more traditional air conditioning units while others make sweeping changes, such as installing radical new air cooling strategies or moving facilities to a colder climates. A resolute member of the latter group, Google may be taking its data center cooling technologies to the next level in the form of a barge, recently seen being fitted in the San Francisco harbor. Several industry insiders speculated that the barge is intended to become a floating, fully functional data center. 

Google has been constantly experimenting with ways to make its data centers more efficient. Although the search engine giant hasn't formally announced that the floating facility is a data center, it has left a paper trail - patents filed fitting the description and design of the barge date back to 2008. According to ZDNet's Larry Dignan, the structure could use wind to power the data center while cooling the systems with water, creating a self-sustaining facility. Only time will tell, as the secretive company has yet to complete and deploy it. 

ZDNet contributor Dan Kusnetzky noted that it would be easier to get approvals for the floating property than a traditional facility and the data center could be easily monitored. With remote management capabilities, the organization could reduce operation costs and continue running its system in a warmer than usual environment.

"While this approach can drastically reduce the life of some systems and storage, Google has been able to make this work well enough in other places to use this approach again," Kusnetzky wrote. "Since their primary applications are stateless, if a system does fail, the task is merely restarted somewhere else. So, Google doesn't care if a single system or, perhaps, an entire shipping container data center goes off line."

Using best cooling practices
Whether Google's floating data center kicks off or not, data room cooling will remain a top priority for operators. As organizations search for solutions, they must consider a variety of available options. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group recently spoke to the benefits of liquid-cooled servers at data centers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which include less energy use than air-cooled equipment on the same site, Data Center Knowledge reported. After testing various amounts of server loads, researchers found that the water captured over half of the servers' heat. However, outside climate conditions can also affect the effectiveness of liquid-cooling, so operators should take stock of their site environment before implementation.

"Water is significantly more efficient than air as a medium for heat removal. There are tradeoffs in using liquid cooling, however, including the cost of the equipment," according to the source. "If liquid cooling can reduce power usage, it could change the economics of purchasing different types of equipment."

As temperature monitoring becomes more important to data center functionality, operators must decide on the best way to leverage resources. With proper cooling solutions, organizations can better regulate their facility environments and maximize uptime for optimal server performance.