One Google data center idea that really floats

Google looks to build floating, power-saving data centers

Google, which has been building out its data center inventory for the past few years, is literally floating its latest idea for the location of such facilities at the US Patent Office.

The company filed a patent application for a "water-based data center" detailing a floating data center, complete with an energy supply fed by a wave-powered generator system, and a wind-powered cooling system using sea water.

The patent application, published August 28, describes a modular setup that calls for "crane removable modules" that store racks of computers. The modules would facilitate adding, subtracting and moving the computing power.

The patent application also details tapping waves and water motion to generate power and the ability to configure the system in many different ways, including on-ship and on-shore data centers, various cooling mechanisms, backup systems and even temporary housing and helicopter pads to support IT maintenance staff.

Google is not the first to consider alternatives to the power-sucking data centers that it and others are constructing around the globe, to suggest unique locations, or to tap the sea for innovative IT ideas.

Both Google and Microsoft are already using hydro-electric power options in the Northwest.

A couple in Nebraska that lives underground in a 1960s-era Atlas E Missile Silo wants to turn 15,000 square feet of their bunker into a highly secure data center.

And a company called SeaCode a few years ago proposed Hybrid-Sourcing, a venture that loads a fully staffed luxury liner with software engineers to get around H-1B visa restrictions and provide US businesses with high-end tech workers.

Google officials say there is nothing to announce now regarding its water-based data center idea.

"We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with. Some of those ideas later mature into real products, services or infrastructure, some don't. We do a lot to make our infrastructure scalable and cost efficient," a company spokesman said in response to an e-mail.

The idea, however, is fully outlined in the patent application.

Google says computing units could be mounted in shipping containers, which could be stored on ships or floating platforms and loaded/unloaded via cranes and equipment already used in shipping ports.

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Tags legalenvironmentdata center power consumptionintellectual propertypatent

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John Fontana

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