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Seawater cooled, solar powered data centers in Hawaii?

I was just readting this article "In the New Data Center, It’s Roofs Off and Taxes Down" and this phrase really caught my eye:

"Both Google and Microsoft continue to scour the globe for locations with cheap power, lots of bandwidth and friendly tax policies for their new data centers."


And I started thinking about the Natural Energy Lab we have near Keahole Point. With a combination of solar-generated electricity and cold water powered cooling, could we feasibly build an ultra-low cost data center?

One issue I know nothing about is the data connectivity in that region. Of course that would be a deal killer and I'd appreciate anyone else shedding more light in this area.

However, the general concept of "Cold Water Solar Data Centers" (I know there's a cool acronym there somewhere) might soon be applied to Honolulu where I assume we have more bandwidth. Cold water cooling is in the pipeline (pun intended) to serve downtown and the Darin Kimura's of Hawaii are busy putting up micro solar power plants around town.

Is there a business case here? Might we have some interesting advantage? Of course I didn't even go near the tax issue for fear of getting sucked into the 221 black hole, but still, the concept intrigues me.

What do you think?

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Comment by Peter Kay on September 5, 2009 at 10:33am
Thanks David for providing the facts on these ideas. I hate it when fantasy gets smashed by reality! :) I saw some articles way back about Google submerging data centers for cooling and it's too bad that will probably not happen here.
Comment by David Lassner on September 5, 2009 at 7:05am
Peter - I think it's definitely an interesting concept, and not necessarily just for the Big Island. At least one entrepreneur gave it a shot at NELHA but didn't pull it off.

There's one major trans-pacific system that lands at Spencer Beach on the Big Island just north of NELHA, the Southern Cross Cable Network (SX). That landing is primarily an architectural feature rather than an active terrestrial network connection point. Other than the SX path to California (which has rarely been accessed from Spencer Beach), almost everything else that goes out from Hawaii emanates from Oahu. The reality is that reliance on 9-digit submarine fiber projects makes Hawaii far more expensive from a bandwidth perspective for reaching major markets. The Tahiti cable (Honotua) will also land at Spencer Beach and they tell me that the cost of Internet connectivity in Hawaii (even after backhaul to Oahu) is about twice what they'd have to pay on the mainland. So it's as cheap for them to pay for raw capacity to the mainland to buy ISP services there rather than buy ISP services here.

My take is that we may need to first think more local and Pacific while we work to mitigate our current significant connectivity disadvantages. E.g., right now many Hawaii sites are hosted on the mainland. This adds to our costs (or decreases bandwidth) and increases latency, which can decrease responsiveness.

Oahu has not been particularly welcoming of new fiber projects, which is why the Tahiti project is landing on the Big Island. It would be great to develop a new "condominium" landing site with sustainable power and AC. I've heard of one entrepreneur trying to pull it off, but not much lately.

There's more on our general trans-pacific connectivity issues in the Hawaii Broadband Task Force report at http://www.hbtf.org. Basically, just like the airplanes passed us by when they could fly directly from the mainland to Asia, most of the new fiber systems built in the past 8 years have also passed us by. There are a few bright spots in 2009-10, but we have a long way to go.
Comment by Peter Kay on August 20, 2009 at 10:33pm
It's hard not to get colored by our previous experiences. Believe me, I feel the same way on any given day.

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