Google to Build Water-Based Facility

According to several reports on Monday, search engine giant Google ( has filed a patent for what the company calls a "water-based data center," which will use waves from the ocean to provide power and cooling to portable facilities.

In its patent, Google writes that its "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."

The patent says the floating data centers will be located three to seven miles off-shore, in 50 to 70 meters of water, and make use of Pelamis Wave Energy Converter ( units that turn ocean surface waves into electricity and can be combined to form "wave farms."

You can take a closer look at these units in action, here.

One implementation is described in the patent as "essentially free and non-polluting," which is particularly relevant in an industry seeking ways to run their data centers more energy-efficiently and "green."

Google's patent also describes a system using "crane-removable" data center modules, confirming Google's development of its own container-based data centers. The company previously filed a patent to develop its own "data center in a box," but the project was later discontinued.

"The data centers may be constructed modularly in areas having low costs, and may be transported to locations needing communications support relatively quickly," writes Google in its patent filing. "The data centers may be offloaded to areas where a more permanent presence is needed, and may also be connected to the motion-powered machines after such offloading, freeing the ship to deploy to another area. Also, data centers, when in the form of shipping containers, may be quickly traded out when technology changes; hardware that is corroded or worn out from the harsh salt water environment can be easily replaced with fresh hardware by swapping containers."

Although this is certainly one of the more unique data center announcements we've reported on, it seems the idea of building a floating data center isn't necessarily a new one.

In January, Data Center Knowledge reported that International Data Security was planning to build up to 50 data centers on cargo ships with below-deck areas being used as data center space and above deck being used to house containerized data centers.

However, one of the big differences seems to be that IDS' cargo ships would be tethered to a pier, whereas Google is talking about a self-contained unit that would sit offshore, much like an oil rig, according to reports on ZDNet.

Google says its newest innovation will enable it to push computing centers closer to regions where it's not feasible, cost-effective or as efficient to build a data center on land. The floating data centers could also help the military during a large event or offer support in natural disaster scenarios, says the company.

With an announcement as unusual as this, it's only natural for a range of opinions to arise across the blogosphere.

Hank Green on EcoGeek writes, "I love the way Google thinks, though I'm not entirely sure that this is going to turn out to be a large-scale solition. I mean, what happens in places without good waves, or when the weather turns placid. Does the Internet go away?"

While Larry Dignan of ZDNet writes, "I'd call it brilliant engineering, but the financial engineering could be even more impressive."

He also points out some of the more interesting assets to this type of data center design, like the ability for the facility to be "self-sustaining," the question of whether there is any need to pay property tax since there's technically no land-based "property" and the factor that launching these data centers may require less red tape.

The search engine giant made headlines last week with the beta launch of its own web browser, dubbed Google Chrome.

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