Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Google Going Offshore?

Google is talking about moving some of their data centers offshore, which in their mind apparently means at sea. Some are calling this a "Google Navy" but it appears to have more in common with Greenpeace than a Navy, as the intent is to take advantage of tax loopholes while going "green" by using wave energy. The Times covers the details in this story.

The company is considering deploying the supercomputers necessary to operate its internet search engines on barges anchored up to seven miles (11km) offshore.

The “water-based data centres” would use wave energy to power and cool their computers, reducing Google’s costs. Their offshore status would also mean the company would no longer have to pay property taxes on its data centres, which are sited across the world, including in Britain.
That would be interesting, because almost certainly we are talking about submarine cables, not satellite bandwidth. The article also highlights one of the concerns Google has with the concept.
Concerns have been raised about whether the barges could withstand an event such as a hurricane. Mr Miller said: “The huge question raised by this proposal is how to keep the barges safe.”
In all likelihood this is just another aspect of the brilliant Google marketing strategy that gets everyone to talk about the creativity at Google. However, as someone who has spent a good deal of time in data centers, there are legitimate reasons why this could be a legitimate concept.

Ask any CIO about the concerns in their data center, and costs for power and requirements for air conditioning are high on the list. Servers work, as long as the temperature isn't too high and the power is available. If a ship can produce the power to run a data center with "wave energy" and cooling can be maintained, there may be something to this idea.

If Google does it, there will be more companies that do as well, and it will raise all kinds of issues for maritime security, but it could also raise questions regarding maritime governance. If businesses begin migrating to sea to take advantage of new technologies like "wave energy," it could also have a positive impact on the shipbuilding community, which will be asked to innovate new offshore industrial solutions.

Definitely something to keep an eye on.

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