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June 29, 2020
About a decade has passed since the founders of Nautilus Data Technologies started designing what they envisioned would be the world’s first floating data center. This week the company announced it has secured the funding necessary to complete the facility – and then some.
Private equity investor Orion Energy Partners, which focuses on funding energy infrastructure companies, has agreed to float Nautilus $100 million, the startup said. The funding will enable it to take the project currently in progress at a US Navy shipyard in California (about 35 miles north of San Francisco) over the finish line and pay for construction of “additional data center projects in the Nautilus pipeline.”
Once the purpose-built computing vessel is finished, it will be towed from the shipyard at Mare Island, a San Pablo Bay peninsula in the City of Vallejo, east, through Suisun Bay and down the waterways of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta estuary, to Stockton, where it will be berthed, fit out with data center electrical and mechanical infrastructure, and plugged into shoreside power and fiber infrastructure.
“The vessel-based facility and installation of major mechanical systems is largely complete at Mare Island,” Nautilus CEO, James Connaughton, told DCK in an email this week. “The vessel has been moved from dry dock to a nearby berth for remaining fit-out work before being towed to Stockton in a few weeks.”
At a dry-land site in Stockton, civil works, utility pad, utility connection, and fiber loop installation are complete. Still underway is construction of a warehouse and an office building, he said. The company plans to commission the floating 6MW data center in the fourth quarter.
In a statement, Orion managing partner Gerrit Nicholas said Nautilus already had multiple customers.
“Nautilus is well positioned to set the standard for providing sustainable and reliable data center services to its customers, who have selected Nautilus for its significant commercial and environmental benefits,” he said. “Orion Energy is eager to partner with the Nautilus team and its existing shareholders to accelerate the deployment of additional environmentally innovative data centers in this high growth sector.”
Nautilus claims its patented TRUE (Total Resource Usage Effectiveness) cooling system, which uses water as the cooling medium instead of air, is extremely energy efficient and supports high power densities – over 100kW per rack, according to Connaughton – appropriate for the latest-generation server CPUs and GPU-powered machine learning infrastructure. The design adapts “proven maritime and industrial water-cooling technologies” for data center use.
The floatation aspect could be useful in markets with tight land supply – such as Singapore, where local data center developer Keppel has invested $10 million in Nautilus as a way to explore the startup's technology’s suitability for that market – or for customers that want to move their data centers around, such as the US Navy, which had expressed interest in Nautilus in the past.
Nautilus said it also has a floating data center under development in Limerick, Ireland. The company says it’s also capable of building data centers on land, where its energy efficient cooling technology can offer the same benefits.