There are a lot of very sharp, very creative minds working in the data industry, particularly where facility design is concerned. And why shouldn’t there be? Data centers are multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar projects. A lot goes into making one, and there’s a lot on the line should a facility not be up to snuff. While there are certainly quite a few organizations that play it safe and stick with traditional designs, there’s also a plethora of operators and businesses that aren’t afraid to go off the beaten path; to forge a new trail whilst everyone else is still exploring the main road.
When these organizations and individuals set to work, they manage some pretty impressive, amazing results. We’ve already profiled a few such facilities in a prior top ten post – but they were far from the only ones.
The Pirate Bay’s “Drone” Servers: The Pirate Bay may not be a legitimate organization in the traditional sense, but no one can deny that the folks behind it came up with a rather brilliant, unique plan to evade authorities and prevent takedown attempts – a fleet of GPS-controlled drones, which would constantly be on the move and act as proxies to direct users to “a series of geographically-hidden servers” which contain the actual torrents and trackers. Granted, there are still a number of logistical oversights in such a plan, and it’s not a data center in the traditional sense…but the concept of flying server stations is a cool one, just the same.
Server-Sky’s Thinsat: As long as we’re on the topic of servers in the sky, we might as well add the Thinsat concept to this list, which honestly feels like something from science fiction. We’ve talked about this one before, so I’ll keep the description brief: Basically, Thinsats are super-thin modular servers, complete with radio communications equipment and solar panels to gather power directly from the sun. Again, as with the idea proposed by The Pirate Bay, this design is very much still in the planning stages, and has a number of logistical problems to overcome (radiation and space debris are chief among these) before it’s viable, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Out to Sea: I’m going to hit you folks with yet another conceptual design. This one stems from a patent proposed by Google a few years back, and involves floating a data center in the middle of the ocean (another organization, IDS, attempted to make the idea a reality around the same time). The offshore facilities would essentially be data barges holding modular clusters of water-cooled servers, all of which would utilize energy gathered from linked wave generators. Portability, efficiency, and ease of deployment are just a few advantages of one such facility – though, like the other conceptual designs on this list, there are several logistical pitfalls standing between this idea and reality. Even so, it’s a valid concept, and one which could end up being very, very valuable to the right organization.
Mineral Cabinets: While certainly not as unique or outlandish as the concepts we’ve detailed thus far, Midas Networks’ Austin, Texas facility still makes the list for its approach to efficient cooling, which involves submerging their server racks in mineral oil. The oil dissipates heat far more efficiently than more traditional air cooling methods, with the only feasible drawback being that maintenance and upgrades aren’t quite as simple as they are with more standard server arrangements. Makes you wonder why more people don’t utilize such a setup, doesn’t it?
The Clumeq Super Cylinder: Located in Quebec, the CLUMEQ Colossus, developed with the cooperation of Sun Microsystems, is constructed within a massive silo which previously housed a particle accelerator. While it utilizes air cooling, it features a rather unique spin on it – a ‘hot core’ at the center of the cylindrical facility, with a cold ring along the outside, the balance of which is maintained by differential air pressure.
Phoenix ONE: Here’s a lesson in space efficiency: I/O’s Phoenix ONE data center houses both a considerable computing facility, as well as the organization’s corporate headquarters. It might not be as flashy as some of the other designs on the list, but it’s still noteworthy in that it’s not an idea you see often. While most data centers contain office space as a necessity, few house anything more than the staff of the facility they’re connected to; let alone the leading employees and executives of the entire operating organization.
Nature-Neutral: Apple has always prided itself on being a pioneer, but climate-neutral facilities and sustainable energy in the data center isn’t a trend they started. When they started construction on their Maiden, California facility, EvoSwitch had already been utilizing sustainable, eco-friendly power for years. Their Amsterdam data center, which houses Wikipedia’s European infrastructure, generates its power entirely from sustainable sources such as wind, solar energy, and biomass. It’s climate-neutral, and carbon free.
No wonder Greenpeace is at Apple’s throat.
IBM’s Green Dream: IBM’s Syracuse University data center utilizes a number of innovative concepts in order to cement its position as the organization’s “greenest data center to date.” These include natural gas fueled micro-turbine engines, rear-door liquid cooling for every server cabinet, recycling of waste heat, and DC power distribution. While none of these technologies are particularly new or innovative on their own, the combination is a potent one indeed.
Data and War: Data Centers are now going to war. Actually, they have been for over a year now thanks to the C3 S.P.E.A.R. RT; a frontline, self-contained, modular data rack, complete with adaptive suspension (computers don’t like physical shock, after all), and all-terrain mobility.
The Data Center in a Box: While it’s hardly a unique idea these days, there was a time not so long ago when the concept of putting a whole data center into a box seemed like a pipe dream, and making the facilities portable sounded like an utterly absurd notion. These days, containerized data centers are really nothing special – but kudos to Sun Microsystems for Project Blackbox, which could be identified as the first true containerized data center.