Over on Data Center Knowledge there is a nice article detailing Google's plans for datacenters floating out at sea. The speculation is based on a patent for a water-based datacenter that Google just updated in the last week or two. I have to say, the idea is really, really fascinating. Here are some thoughts:
Wow is that ever cool:
- You don't need to actually generate power for cooling, all you need to do is exchange the heat. So these ships would be sucking in cool seawater and spitting out warm seawater.
- You can use wave power to generate the watts you need to run the servers themselves. Hence the only carbon footprint these things have comes from the diesel engines moving the boat.
- Maintenance means taking a shipping container that needs fixing off with a crane, and replacing it with a good one. It's very industrial, but very elegant.
But are they insane?
- Who is going to man these things? Are techs going to have to put 'insensitivity to motion sickness' on their resumes? Are they going to commute by helicopter? Or are they going to sleep in hammocks? Wait, they might actually like that part...
- When you have to come into shore for maintenance or avoid a hurricane, does the entire barge/datacenter have to go offline for days? Seems like these things would need an undersea cable for connectivity, so the moment you move it it goes offline, yes?
- If floating datacenter barges become a key part of our national data infrastructure, don't they become a juicy target? How does one defend something like this against a rather low tech weapon like a torpedo or a suicide speedboater (e.g. USS Cole)?
But you know, I really want to see one of these things built, just to see the idea put into practice. I think we'd learn so much just by trying. Even technology spinoffs from a failed effort might make it worthwhile, we really don't use the ocean effectively. And they don't have to be just out to sea, seems like Lake Superior might work too, or who knows, even big paddleboats on the Mississippi! Ok, that one was a bit looney, but what do readers think? Is this idea going to, errrr, float?
And to any readers who spend time in land-based datacenters, would you relish the chance to work on one of these?
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