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Data Storage Google The Almighty Buck Hardware

Seagoing Servers Hit the Rocks 56

1sockchuck writes "A plan to build data centers on ships is now defunct. Startup IDS, whose ambitions to convert cargo ships into server farms prompted debate on Slashdot in 2008 and 2010, is in bankruptcy. Google filed a patent for a water-based data center, but it's not clear that the company ever took the concept seriously, and has even spoofed the idea."
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Seagoing Servers Hit the Rocks

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  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:05PM (#40555347)

    Customer: So where are your servers located...
    Company: International Waters... Barge 12.

  • upload? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    how exactly can you have large bandwidth with no cables?

    • Re:upload? (Score:5, Funny)

      by PaddyM ( 45763 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:08PM (#40555381) Homepage

      Never underestimate the bandwidth of a seaworthy station wagon filled with hard drives.

      • by Resol ( 950137 )
        Ha! That brings back great memories of a 1986 Comp. Sci. class comparing 1200 baud modems and a pick-up truck filled with mag tapes for transferring data between Saskatoon and Calgary in Canada. Well done!
      • Re:upload? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Tofof ( 199751 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @04:14PM (#40556329)

        Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.

        The last time I saw that line, I decided to actually look into it.

        In the 1970s, by which time the phrase was already in use [], a typical station wagon would be something like an AMC Rebel []. According to stats from Wikipedia, the Rebel has a cargo capacity of 91 cubic feet. For tape, the IBM 10.5" reel [] was the "defacto standard" from the 1950s "through the late 1980s". Assume 10.5"x10.5"x.5" i.e. 55.1 cubic-inch rectangular prisms as the tightest possible packing (which is optimistic, given that the tape itself is .5" not including the reels themselves, but the saying urges us to avoid undersetimation) 9-track tapes debuted in 1964, with densities of 800, 1600, or 6250 cpi corresponding to between 5 to 140 megabytes per standard 2400' tape. This gives us a capacity, then, of 2854 tapes per station wagon. At highest density (again, the phrase does urge not to underestimate) this corresponds to a whopping, in the mid-1970s at least, 390 gigabytes. I consider a trip from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to Norfolk, Virginia as a reasonable cross-country journey with computing-appropriate endpoints and a 55 mph 1970s speed limit. This is roughly 850 miles, managable in 15.5 hours with very quick stops for gas.
        This finally corresponds to a mid-1970s bandwidth of 390 gigabytes per 15.5 hours, or in more familiar units, 57 mbps (yes, bits not Bytes, as is typical for bandwidth units).

        The modern version would probably need to substitute an SUV for the station wagon. A 2012 Ford Explorer is listed at 81 cubic feet. Using common modern tapes, like jb/jx tapes, you could hold ~7000. In gen4 mode, these tapes hold 1.6 TB (yes, 4TB tapes exist but seem too extraordinary for this usage). At typical cross-country speed of 68 mph, the same trip would be 13 hours, padded by the same half-hour for gas the previous figure was.
        The modern version, then, works out to some 11 petabytes per 13 hours, or something like 1900 gbps. This works out to a full terabyte transferred every 4.2 seconds.

        Do not underestimate, indeed!

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Don't underestimate, fine, but you probably should account for the time to transfer the data from disk to tape and load all of the tapes into the SUV, and reverse the process upon reaching the destination.
          • Don't underestimate, fine, but you probably should account for the time to transfer the data from disk to tape

            WTF are you talking about? The majority of the systems in question in the 1970s read records from tape, processed them, and wrote them to tape. The data never touched disk. The disk was reserved for the program image and perhaps scratchpad or virtual memory (if you had a fancy VM-capable system).

            You're not backing up data for transfer, you're transferring the only copy! Put that in your "copyright

            • Don't underestimate, fine, but you probably should account for the time to transfer the data from disk to tape

              WTF are you talking about? The majority of the systems in question in the 1970s read records from tape, processed them, and wrote them to tape. The data never touched disk.

              Don't underestimate, fine, but you probably should account for the time to transfer the data from disk to tape and load all of the tapes into the SUV

              If he's talking about the modern day equivalent, then it's extremely unlikely that his system stores its data on the tapes. The data would need to be moved off the tape and onto disk to be useful so the time taken to do that should be added to the comparison.

              A large SATA disk will store a similar(ish) amount of data to a tape. We're talking about data tran

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Breaker break 1-9, we gotta bandwidth cap comin' up 'round mile marker 36

        • I once calculated that a freight train, consisting of standard boxcars stuffed to the roof with terrabyte hard drives, and travelling at 100 km/hr, would have an average data rate of around 2000 terrabytes per second.

          Ping time: around two weeks.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Big pigeons
    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      You use fiber instead of cables ;-)

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      how exactly can you have large bandwidth with no cables?

      Sharks! With lasers strapped to their heads, and laser detectors as well!

    • You can get satellite or even point to point microwave connections in some cases that are extremely high bandwidth. It's the horrible response time that's the problem. I've seen connections that will send 10 megabits through at around a 700ms round trip delay. Ugh.
    • Re:upload? (Score:5, Funny)

      by NalosLayor ( 958307 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:55PM (#40556085)
      I think this is an avenue for research. Perhaps, some day, someone will devise some sort of "under-sea" or possibly "sub-marine" waterproof telegraphic cable in order to electrgraphically connect two stationary points across a body of open water. I'd imagine you'd have to customize some sort of cable-laying vessel as well. Once this breakthough is achieved, we'll be able to transmit data from a ship to shore.
      • The underwater part is solved. Pricy still, but solved. The problem is getting the cable up to the surface in the absence of a nice steady slopeing shore, in a way that doesn't overly stress it even during the worst storms.
  • It would have eliminated cooling costs (just pull in cold water from under the boat) without the horrendous costs of coastal land anywhere near civilization.

    • They'll complain about how you're warming the ocean and send divers down to plug your cooling vents.

    • (just pull in cold water from under the boat)

      How cold is the water?

      • Dunno but once you get about 10ft. down it's quite chilly, go deep enough and you can get near-freezing water even in the tropics.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:19PM (#40555513)
    That is, in deep water.
  • Better Idea (Score:3, Funny)

    by ab_iron ( 622116 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:23PM (#40555551) Journal
    I think caves in Sultanate of Kinakuta would be a much better idea.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:32PM (#40555707) Homepage

    There's been some success with floating power plants. [] But those are built for developing countries, and they're installed along a shore. It's a way to move a power plant from where it was built to a destination location where construction is difficult. Building a power plant in a shipyard is convenient. A shipyard already has the equipment for moving and assembling very heavy components, and people who know how to use it.

    None of this applies to a data center.

  • by NicknamesAreStupid ( 1040118 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:37PM (#40555773)
    After the billionaires mine asteroids for gold, they are going to stick giant datacenters in them. All this happens when Scotty gets the transporter back online.
  • by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:48PM (#40555985)
    It's a good thing the plan didn't go through because I guarantee the RIAA and MPAA would have build stealth submarines and sunk it. You can do pretty much anything in international waters lol.
    • You appear to be operating under the incorrect impression that they care about PR being good or bad or the attention span to build an armed sub. They'd simply pay off enough congress critters to send the Navy out to sink them and then use mass media to tell the public how good of a thing our boys in white did to help stem the tide of these horrible sea pirates.

    • Re:Good thing though (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @04:27PM (#40556535)
      History repeats: Offshore pirate radio used to be very big in the UK. The government eventually responded by passing a law saying that any unlicensed transmission that could be recieved in the UK was illegal, even if the transmitter was in international water and regardless of the registered nationality of the transmitting ship. This was of rather dubious legality, but no other country wished to make a fuss over something so small as a legal nitpicking when they were dealing with similar issues themselves. It did indeed come down to the government sending armed attack squads to board transmitter ships and arrest the operators. So it's happene before, don't think it wouldn't happen again.

      Amusingly, both the BBC (World Service) and US government (Voice of America) deliberatly broadcast unlicensed into countries where the government deems them to be operating illegally. North Korea, places like that where the only allowed media is the state propaganda service. Proving that one again, in international law, might does make right.
  • prompted debate on Slashdot in 2008 and 2010/quote HAH! Even the most mundane of topics prompt debate on Slashdot. I'm 100% certain if there was a post on here about the sky being blue, a debate would follow in the comments. There was so little for the poster to say about this subject that they felt the need to include a worthless fluff sentence.

Nothing is faster than the speed of light ... To prove this to yourself, try opening the refrigerator door before the light comes on.