Google's Mysterious Floating Data Center
We have all witnessed hypocrisy on the part of Google's executives in the form of a pimped-out Boeing 767 aircraft for globe trotting under the guise of eco-warrioring, along with special landing privileges at military installations. Add to that the massive data centers that consume mind-numbing amounts of power while assuaging their guilt by installing a few solar panels and wind turbines in the desert to supply partial power. But wait, now there's more.
Very recently, a massive floating barge was spotted docked in San Francisco Bay that has ostensibly been traced back to Google. Just for the record, I am not claiming that Google has anything to do with it, but numerous reports suggest it is so. It is actually one of two such behemoths built by a contractor, with the other having been photographed in Maine. Speculation (OK, rumor) has it that Google is implementing such an installation (or installations) as a means of skirting the law by operating in international waters. It conveniently might also excuse the company from taxation in any particular country. Oh, and maybe, just maybe, one or more of the aforementioned 3-letter agencies might be ushering the process along out of the goodness of its (their) G-man (and G-woman) heart(s).
Does all this sound a bit too conspiratorial for you to buy into it? After all, where will the power come from to operate all the computers that will be needed to run the data center? There is not enough room for the amount of solar panels that would be required, and a wind turbine is out of the question. Underwater turbines that feed off of currents or tides won't do it either. That leaves just three options that I can think of, either enormous power cables lying on the ocean bottom that are fed from onshore sources, an onboard carbon-based fuel electrical generator, or a nuclear-powered electrical generator like what is used on a submarine. The first option might prove dicey since sovereignty issues would be debatable depending on who is supplying the power to the barge. The second option is flat-out hypocritical (not that it would harm their consciences at this point) and the last option is the scariest of all since obtaining such technology would require either special access to military sources and licensing or collusion with terrorists.
A lot of investigative reporting has been done on this revelation in the last week or so since the Google barges' discovery. U.S. patent 7,525,207, "Water-based data center," (assignee: Google, Inc.) was found that outlines exactly such a facility, without divulging too much detail about the implementation. The abstract states thus, "A system includes a floating platform-mounted computer data center comprising a plurality of computing units, a sea-based electrical generator in electrical connection with the plurality of computing units, and one or more sea-water cooling units for providing cooling to the plurality of computing units." That appears to address the power source question in general, but does not rule out the possibility of an onshore connection.
Believe it or not, my suggested possibilities for unreasonable power sources was made before reading the patent, which indeed proposes exactly those. If implemented, they will be distractions to pacify the concerns of Greenies - who will gladly go along with and defend Google like good little trained drones. Regardless of the power source, there will be a huge amount of heat generated by the onboard equipment that will need to be dissipated. Undoubtedly that heat will be transferred directly into the ambient water. Doing so in sovereign waters will require a legal permit which will be issued only following extensive studies of the ecological ramifications of adding such a copious amount of heat to the water. Nuclear power plant construction has been successfully blocked specifically due to concerns for how the increase in water temperature will affect plant and animal life in the area. Such processes typically take many years. Has Google applied for and received such permits? Has NSA told the EPA to quell the objections of the NIH and OSHA because DHS, CIA, and FBI deem the capability to be top priority? Do you think there is a chance that someone has greased the skids, so to speak, for obtaining such licenses? Nah, that would be unethical.
Now, please, just go back to sleep.
For more info (and some hilarious reader comments) see "Mystery Portland barge and San Francisco barge appear linked" and "Is Google building a floating data center?" Do a Google (ironically) search for many more.
Posted October 28, 2013