Is Google building a navy? Internet giant launches second ‘floating data center’
Experts speculate that Google is building a floating data center on a barge in San Francisco Bay Google patented the idea in 2009, but hasn't commented on the development Others theorize the Internet company is building a floating marketing center for Google Glass
By Daily Mail Reporter
Published: 01:12 GMT, 30 October 2013 | Updated: 10:57 GMT, 30 October 2013
A second mystery barge has been discovered - this one docked in Maine, thousands of miles away from the ship spotted in San Fransisco Bay that has set the tech world abuzz.
The vessel in Portland Harbor looks nearly identical to its cousin 2,700 miles away in California - four stories of shipping containers welded together atop a large flat barge. They are also both registered to the same mysterious Delaware-based corporation.
The ships are widely believed to be owned by Google - built as prototype floating data centers that use ocean water to regulate the intense heat put out by the mass of servers.
Google has refused to comment on the vessels, though a 2009 patent filed by the company describes an environmentally-friendly sea-powered telecommunications and storage system that looks much like the vessels that have appears on both side of the continent.
The Portland Press-Herald reports the Maine barge is docked at the city’s Ricker’s Warf. Contractors from local engineering firm Cianbro Corp. are installing high-tech equipment in the vessel, though workers said even they didn’t know what the purpose of the ship was or who they were working for.
Little is known about them, but they appear to have been registered by someone familiar with geek speak - and with a sense of humor.
The structures are registered with a Delaware corporation as BAL0001, BAL0010, BAL0011 and BAL0100. In binary code used in computing, the numbers spell out “one,” “two,” “three” and “four.” Currently, Nos. 1 and 2 are on the water in San Francisco and No. 3 is in Portland Harbor.
Also, the Delaware company to which they’re registered is called Buy and Large, a likely joking reference to “Buy N Large,” the fictional mega-corporation in the 2008 Pixar film ‘WALL-E.’
Google’s patent describes ‘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.’
Now, CNET investigative reporter Daniel Terdiman claims the mystery construction site floating in San Francisco Bay could belong to Google, drawing on evidence from lease agreements, expert consultations and interviews with locals.
He said putting data centers inside shipping containers, as he claims Google is doing, is already a well-established practice.
While some commentators have criticized the reporter’s evidence as circumstantial, experts say it’s plausible that Google would build water-based data facility.
Joel Egan, the principal at Cargotecture, which designs custom cargo container buildings, said the structure looks like a data center.
‘The cutouts in the long walls of the containers, when they line up, they make hallways,’ Egan told CNET. ‘You could put all sorts of mainframes into the containers…It doesn’t have enough windows for an office building.’
Egan said that putting a data center on a barge would provide access to abundant water to help cool a large number of servers.
Jonathan Koomey, a Stanford research fellow and expert on data centers, said companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, and Microsoft have been installing specially built data centers in shipping containers for some time because they’re easy to deploy.
Meanwhile, KPIX 5 reports that Google is actually building a floating marketing center at Hangar 3 for Google Glass, the cutting-edge wearable computer the company has under development.
KPIX 5 claims sources say Google hopes to tow the completed structure from Treasure Island across the Bay to San Francisco’s Fort Mason, where it would be anchored and open to the public.
The media outlet also reported that construction on the site, near the San Francisco Bay Bridge, stopped several weeks ago because Google does not have a permit to park the barge on the waterfront.
Construction on the site commenced last year, and the work is being shielded by a high security fence.