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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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  • 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: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.
  • 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 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 Mad Merlin ( 837387 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @02:31PM (#24902497) Homepage

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

  • 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.
  • Re:Cooling (Score:5, Interesting)

    by silentbozo ( 542534 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @02:41PM (#24902585) Journal
    Not to mention that there's no property tax (being taxed to occupy real estate), if the local business or economic climate goes bad you can pick up and be towed to a different location, and you can always add more units if demand increases. The one problem I see is pirates. No, seriously - you anchor one of these away from an area patrolled by a decent navy/coast guard, and I can see someone paying you a visit late one night to haul away equipment...
  • by rtaylor ( 70602 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @03:00PM (#24902789) Homepage

    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.

  • by iknowcss ( 937215 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @03:13PM (#24902965) Homepage
    So far this is the only comment that asks the first question that popped into my head. That heat does have to go somewhere.
  • 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"?

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @05:47PM (#24904665) Homepage Journal

    Sounds like easy pickings for a band of real pirates.

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 06, 2008 @07:25PM (#24905639)

    Google forgot the part about not being evil [] some time ago.

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