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The Google Navy 259

theodp writes "Is Google preparing to launch its own Navy? In its just-published application for a patent on the Water-Based Data Center, Google envisions a world where 'computing centers are located on a ship or ships, which are then anchored in a water body from which energy from natural motion of the water may be captured, and turned into electricity and/or pumping power for cooling pumps to carry heat away from computers in the data center.' And you thought The Onion was joking when it reported on Google's Fleet of Naval Warships!"
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The Google Navy

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  • Cooling (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Uglypug ( 1309973 )
    Very good idea from a cooling point of view I suppose, the a/c bills for a big datacenter can be huge. But enough to offset the cost of operating an entire ship..?
    • Re:Cooling (Score:5, Interesting)

      by chasingsol ( 743706 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @02:22PM (#24902411)
      Add to that wave power, custom built ships just for this purpose anchored in place, fiber connection to the mainland and it may well prove to be cheaper over the long term than a land-based air conditioned building that requires lots of power. Air conditioning is a huge part of the long term cost of a datacenter, using water cooling with abundant supplies of water seems like a very green way of doing things.
    • Yes, talk about a new generation of water cooling!

    • Heat pollution (Score:3, Informative)

      by Toe, The ( 545098 )
      Ocean-water-cooling would just move the heat pollution [] of data centers from an urban area to the ocean. I am not sure that is an improvement. Substantial temperature changes have major effects on ocean microecosystems.
      • Yes, but it would do so more efficiently. For example, it can take 1 watt to dissipate 2 watts of heat using a heat pump. So that's equal to 3 watts of energy placed into our environment for every 2 watts of work. Now by just pumping ocean water you can likely get away with only 0.1 watts used to dissipate every 2 watts of heat. So the difference is 2.1 watts vs 3 watts of energy placed into the environment - ocean cooling is better.

        Now there is one other point to consider. With ocean cooling you can n

    • by soren42 ( 700305 ) *
      The problem will be global warming... talk about a way to increase oceanic temperatures and melt the polar ice caps!

      Google - bad for the environment.... I never thought I'd see the day...
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        If the energy to power the data center comes from fossil fuels then it wouldn't matter whether it was located on land or on the ocean. The same amount of heating would occur. If they wind up using wave, solar and wind power to provide power to the oceanic data center then there would be no net increase in warming. Not only that but the oceanic data center powered by green power would reduce demand on the local power grid in a city. Using cold sea water to cool the equipment is far more efficient than using
        • Re:Cooling (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ctetc007 ( 875050 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @04:56PM (#24904231) Homepage
          Also, powering the data center using tidal power would be taking energy out of the ocean. While the water cooling would be dumping energy back into the ocean, it will be dumping in less energy than was taken out, so there should actually be a net cooling of the ocean.
    • Re:Cooling (Score:5, Interesting)

      by __aaqvdr516 ( 975138 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @03:36PM (#24903267)
      Having served on a Navy ship I can point out a few problems:

      First, sea water temperatures vary greatly depending on the part of the world you're operating in. It's not uncommon for surface sea water temps to be in the 85F(30C)+ range for most areas where you're likely to moor a ship. The AC units that we used were barely able to keep the small server room that I ran cool under those conditions.

      Second, the motion of the ship caused premature drive failures due to the pitch and roll of the ship. This could be alleviated with solid state drives, but that's a bit off for a data center at the moment.

      Lastly, bandwidth and latency are problematic. Sure, Google could just buy a satellite, but they can't modify the 2000ms latency. Depending on ship size and sea conditions, keeping a satellite lock may be an issue as well due to roll.

      All I can really say to Google is, good luck with all that!

      • I'm assuming Google would go more with a barge and less with a ship. The barge is going to be a bit more stable (although there will still be pitch and roll) and there would be a fiber umbilical connecting the barge to land (no satellite).
      • by Molochi ( 555357 )

        It'll probably be less of a ship and more of a stabilized floating platform, like an oil rig, if they plan to use "wave power". But cooling would be more efficient off the coast of California, Northern Europe, and Japan than places with bathwater seas like India.

      • Have you considered mounting the drives vertically, with the axis pointing along the ship's longitudinal axis? I imagine that 7200 or 10,000 RPM disks would have quite a bit of precession, so maybe mounting them such that the axis with the greater perturbation is the same as the disk's axis would mitigate that a little.

  • by Adambomb ( 118938 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @02:19PM (#24902377) Journal

    Now focus on that apart from the fact that it would also allow them to shift the jurisdiction of their operations when laws change in specific regions.

    Hell, fill them with enough guns and they could just put them in international waters. If any of these are launched, shall we start the pool on how long until the "Google fighting Piracy" joke headlines?

    • by e2d2 ( 115622 )

      Google could never bring enough might to bear to claim complete and utter isolation from national laws just by motoring into international waters. Any country with might would simply seize control if provoked. It's really hard to fall back on "law" when you are facing the very same people that write them.

      • by SUB7IME ( 604466 )

        I think he means to defend the ship vs actual ocean pirates, not sovereign powers.

      • Yes, but they can still up-anchor and leave the current port of call when it becomes obvious that the current locations laws are not as amenable as somewhere else (taking into account cost of moving the ship of course). For international waters, i dont see them thumbing their noses at any super powers but they can avoid quite a bit of red-tape (sometimes justified red-tape) by stationing in international waters.

        As long as they dont step on big toes, then the worst they have to worry about would be actual pi

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 )

      Hell, fill them with enough guns and they could just put them in international waters.

      That's one long fiber-optic cord you are proposing. Somehow I doubt people would put up with satellite's latency.

      • Depends on the distance and the location. Could always work out a series of GoogleBuoys with permanent landlines as underwater cable that they alternate between. or perhaps a high power microwave bridge in a region where theres little issue with native fauna.

        Just because the direct land->ship link is what they're describing doesn't mean it's the only option.

    • Or they could just anchor out in international waters and not be under anybody's jurisdiction. The only fuzzy bit would be where the cables connected to, but if they anchored in the right spot, they could probably connect to several nations simultaneously.

      • So: []

        Hell, fill them with enough guns and they could just put them in international waters.

        That and.. []

        Could always work out a series of GoogleBuoys with permanent landlines as underwater cable that they alternate between

        I hear ya. ... well.. read ya.

  • Is there more than just being eco-friendly to this? I can see this being used to avoid taxes, censorship laws, etc.
  • by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) * on Saturday September 06, 2008 @02:20PM (#24902391)
    Google envisions a world where 'computing centers are located on a ship or ships

    My father-in-law worked as a linesman for AT&T about 30 years at a beach town in southern New Jersey. He told me that they had to replace electrnoic components almost twice as quickly as more inland areas because of the more corrosive saltwater air.

    If this is a real effect, I imagine that it will be difficult to prevent on a ship in the ocean.
    • by the_womble ( 580291 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @02:29PM (#24902487) Homepage Journal
      Computers can go in a matter of months in a location really close to the sea.

      On the other hand, I know people, in the town I have just moved to, who live only tens of meters from the sea who have had no problems - but they have a massive rampart between them and the sea that (I think) blocks the spray.

      Ships are going to be tricky but designs meant to keep salt spray out may be workable.

      • by barzok ( 26681 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @03:04PM (#24902819)

        Ships are going to be tricky but designs meant to keep salt spray out may be workable.

        It's not like the US Navy, every cruise line, and countless shipbuilders haven't ever put a computer on a seagoing vessel before.

        "May be workable"? I'd say it's been solved many times over.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by maxume ( 22995 )

          The Navy isn't comparing the costs of those computers to computers in a data center somewhere on land.

      • Bizarre idea I had was to seal the data center on the ship,
        and have the equivalent of decontamination chambers to enter
        the room.

        Then lower a deep sea intake line down to where the water is
        about 5 degree celsius, and pumps it in to heat exchangers
        to cool the server room.

        I used to work on heat exchangers when I worked on RADAR in
        the Navy, we used it to cool our RADAR but we didn't go for
        the deep much colder water.

        In theory the server room could be devoid of oxygen so oxidation
        of contacts could not take place,

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mad Merlin ( 837387 )

      I doubt Google cares, they throw away any servers older than 3 years or so (dead or not).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rtaylor ( 70602 )

      Google datacenters are pretty much disposable today. Build it once, run it for X years, then dump the entire thing. Repairs are less and less useful.

      Each rack could be an independently sealed bubble (airtight) with a few wires coming out the top for power and network connectivity, then hang the entire rack into a flooded compartment of the boat -- say a catamaran with a protective mesh bottom.

      With cooling requirements taken care of, powering the computers becomes quite a bit easier.

    • That's possible, but that's definitely something which can be dealt with.

      If that were really that kind of a problem, the Navy would have real issues. Just seal up the room and clean the air when people go in. Cooling isn't an issue because they'd be doing water cooling anyways, and that's through sealed piping.

      It would probably cost less than what it currently costs to keep the temperature down. More likely than not doing all that would be overkill anyways.

  • SS Google (Score:4, Interesting)

    by escay ( 923320 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @02:21PM (#24902397) Journal
    are these going to be stationed more than 12 nautical miles away from the coast? 'cause, you know, then they wouldn't be under US jurisdiction.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hedwards ( 940851 )

      Sigh, I really wish people would stop with this meme. Compared to a lot of other countries, we're not that bad. I mean try posting history lessons about WWII in Europe or Japan. Or anything which isn't particularly flattering to the government in China. I'm sure that's not even a comprehensive list.

      But, the suggestion that the US is worse than other countries, is naive at best. Realistically, the US government just gets more focus than other nations do.

      • This must be some kind of karma whoring bot?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Adambomb ( 118938 )

        First off, you're exactly right that compared to many many countries, America is not THAT bad. Also, you're exactly right that the reason the US receives so much focus is the fact that America has been a huge influence on the world at large this past century or so.

        What saddens me is America used to be a place that believed in certain values as being sacrosanct and would fight to the death to defend those values. The americans at those times would follow their values regardless of what was thought of them or

      • Be careful when swinging around allegations about Europe. I can't think of any large, western European country subject to revisionism (unless you're a holocaust denier, in which case I'd class you as the revisionist). In Britain if anything our history lessons are more an extended rant on how crappy we were to everyone else and ourselves.

        This is the continent with the Netherlands and Scandinavia on it, remember. While Britain, France and Germany have their foibles, you don't get anything like you get with J

    • The ship may not be teritorial waters but the fiber connection surely is....
      • They hardly need to connect a fibre cable to any particular country. Hell they could anchor on top of one of the undersea cables and just tap straight in and rent the bandwidth directly from the people that own the cable. Hell it's google, they could lay their own damn cable. What more os a concern is if you're using sea water to cool your server you need to filter that water VERY well unless you want the try dealing with the corrosion inside your water blocks.
        • Regardless of who owns that cable reaches a country it and the signals are under their the countries control. The only real way to get around the whole thing is to launch your own internet communications satilite.

          Not really you just use a fresh water cooling coil in the cold sea water.

    • Assuming Google remains a United States company, has U.S. bank accounts, does business in the U.S., has its employees and managers on U.S. soil instead of moving them all to the boat too, and so on, it'll be pretty easily subject to U.S. laws.

    • In practice US jurisdiction extends to anywhere our carrier battle groups [] are. If you want to plant your flag somewhere on this earth then you have to be able to defend it as well, because governments hate competition. Did the shool bully stop at the edge or his lawn when you were thumbing your nose at him on the other side or did he cross the street and kick your butt?
  • Sea-Code? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by conner_bw ( 120497 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @02:22PM (#24902417) Journal

    This reminds me a lot of Sea Code [].

    Basically, a boat a few miles of the coast in international waters with cheap labour from other countries living on the boat.

    For real Google?

  • by Nyckname ( 240456 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @02:25PM (#24902447)

    But there's the matter of pizza delivery.

  • And then let the ships circle around the edge of the Pacific ocean, picking up IT workers along the way to drop off in America.


    Where have I heard that before []?

  • Am I the only one who thinks google is overreaching? Doing stuff just because they have tons of cash..for now..
  • by colinmcnamara ( 1152427 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @02:36PM (#24902545) Homepage
    In all seriousness, there may be interesting tax implications if these datacenters are put outside of US waters.
  • by Smivs ( 1197859 ) <> on Saturday September 06, 2008 @02:40PM (#24902571) Homepage Journal

    So presumably these ships will connect through a series of Google-Sats in geo-stationary orbits, linking to a Google-hub in each country. And behold, Google shall inherit the Earth. Thankfully, a network of Microsoft terrorists will be able to track then using Virtual Earth and infect the servers with Windows, thus rendering them useless and saving us all.

  • It will need to work better then windows for warships to be a good idea.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It will be water logged!

  • I'm not sure which reference is more appropriate: Crytponomicon data haven, or The Raft in Snowcrash...

  • by rdwald ( 831442 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @03:35PM (#24903259)

    But seriously, am I the only one who sees an inevitable path from "offshore datacenters" to "cyberpunk future where major corporations like Google declare sovereignty"?

  • by miller60 ( 554835 ) * on Saturday September 06, 2008 @03:53PM (#24903483) Homepage
    A San Francisco startup is working on a fleet of data centers on cargo ships [], as discussed here on Slashdot earlier this year..
  • Ships - been done

    Wave motion electrical generation - been done

    Data Center - been done

    Marine Cables - been done

    Self contained electrical generating stations connected to shore by cables and monitored by onboard computers that also store info - been done

    Do I detect the filing patents for the purposes of doing EVIL??

  • by WillRobinson ( 159226 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @04:06PM (#24903651) Journal

    Point taken on water temp, security and connections. Why not just have a submersible barge, and drop down to the ocean floor.

    Makes it easy to moor. Fiber just lays on the ocean floor. Improved Security, and the water will be much cooler. Sort of a barge made like a giant heatsink. Mount the processors to the hull.

    When the barge looses enough hardware, just raise it back up, service it and drop it back down.

    Also reduced problems with being pitched around causing lost disk drives. Hurricanes? No problem.

  • Seriously. I would not want to work 1000 miles from my home on that "ship" and outside of any laws, because if anyone complains about payment or freedom, they could shoot him and dump him in the water. (Look for sharks first, so there's no body floating on the sea... or edit Google earth ;)

    And only the US navy (thinking the world is theirs anyway, which it probably is... :( ) could stop them. But would they? I mean Google has money... and power... and soon it's own country with its own laws.

    I guess first th

    • >P.S.: Yeah, my English is that bad. How good is your Luxemburgish? :P

      Ganz gutt, firwat?

    • There are still laws, even in international waters.

      plus countries are extending their 'boundaries' more and more, to the point there will be no true international waters left.

      And don't forget if you are in International waters, you are on your own. Don't expect the coast guard to drop by to help when you get attacked.

  • Wow, I sank Google! :-)

  • Wasn't it Sun that had a setup with shipping container filled with servers and networking gear. Converting an cargoship into a data center could be as simple as loading the containers, networking them, and voila instant sea based cluster. Lots of power options as well, nuclear, solar, wind, wave...
  • The patent application confirms that Google has data center containers []. The company patented the concept several years ago, but some developers of the Google container have said they abandoned the project. But the filing describes containers being lifted on and off ships by cranes.
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @05:47PM (#24904665) Homepage Journal

    Sounds like easy pickings for a band of real pirates.

  • Google envisions a world where 'computing centers are located on a ship or ships, which are then anchored in a water body

    ...outside the jurisdiction of national intelligence services,...

  • by Ancient_Hacker ( 751168 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @06:55PM (#24905387)

    Something like 99.4% of patents never make a cent.

    This one is particularly loopy.

    Let's do the math. Let's say Google buys the Queen Mary. 80,000 tons. Let's say they anchor it someplace with an average wave height of 20 feet, wave period of 10 seconds. Raising 80,000 tons at 2 feet per second takes about 160,000 horsepower. Hmmm, that's very close to the original steaming capacity of the QM. In watts, that's about 120 megawatts, about ten times more than you'd need if you packed the ship with servers. Okay, so that looks easily doable.

    Problem is, buying the electricity would be much cheaper. 12 megawatts will cost you about $700 an hour. Can you run and maintain and pay on the principal and pay salaries and insurance on $700/hour? No, not a couple of powers of ten.

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus