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Will the network centers of the world someday look like this?
No word on how company plans to deal with pirates

While Sun may have pioneered the "Datacenter in a shipping container" concept some time ago with "Project Blackbox," and alternative uses for shipping containers discovered before that by enterprising architects, a San Francisco area startup company is planning on taking the concept of portable servers one step further -- by floating the loaded containers on the cargo ships from whence they came.

International Data Security (IDS) plans to open its first portion of available space at the beginning of April 2008 on a container ship docked at San Francisco Bay's Pier 50, according to Kenneth Jamaca of Silverback Migration Solutions. Standard connections for power and network will be run to the ships.

According to the company sales brochure and further information from IDS, IDS will be deploying 50 "server ships" worldwide, with 22 docked in North America. Each ship will have facilities similar to landed data centers, with additional ship-specific features such as overnight accomodations and a galley instead of a cafeteria -- and over 200,000 square feet of available server space per ship.

Power demands will be supplemented by on-ship generators running on the ship's fuel supply, allowing sustained power outages of up to one month. To help reduce the demands on the cooling system for the generators and data containers, sea water will be used to cool the AC towers for a claimed power reduction of 30-40%. In a circular fashion, the excess heat from the same equipment will be used to supplement ambient heat on the ship.

While the jokes about purchasing an entire cargo ship and setting sail for international waters have already been told, there are no plans for the ships to leave port -- the massive bandwidth requirements and use of refurbished ships no doubt play large roles in this decision.

Still, the dream of a certain Swedish peer-to-peer site to purchase a "floating data haven" seems to be inching closer and closer by the day.

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By FITCamaro on 1/9/2008 3:16:15 PM , Rating: 2
Why exactly are we building data centers on ships? Land isn't that sparse here in the states.

RE: Ummm...
By Talcite on 1/9/2008 3:25:34 PM , Rating: 2
It makes sense technologically.

The sea water acts as free air conditioning, backup power is provided by engines which are already onboard, and connecting some fiberoptic to a ship is no different from connecting it to a land datacenter. The ships are refurbished, so they've already been built. I'm sure these guys are saving a lot of costs. It just sounds crazy, that's all.

RE: Ummm...
By rippleyaliens on 1/9/2008 3:31:02 PM , Rating: 1
An advantage to this, especially in california, Natural Disasters, fires, earthquakes, etc... Now granted now your DC is floating, there is still risks envolved. Now what i see with this, we have a DC at wherever.. now i can have a CO-LO, that is on a boat. IN the SF area, that is a novel idea in which to have data spread out through-out.. IF a raging storm was comming, the ship could leave port. Much more secure, from the typical exploits.. Unlocked doors, too much walk through traffic.. As security on even a cargo ship is tight, as it is very easy to see if someones commind. Now if navy seals are comming,welllllll too bad, too sad..

I rather have my HOT DC on somehting affordable, and portable, versus 1000 miles away, in a mountain, lol

RE: Ummm...
By TomZ on 1/9/2008 3:40:59 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure that the ship leaving port, thereby severing the DC/CO-LO network connections, is a situation that any customer would want because a bad storm rolled in.

I perceive that a ship-based DC would be less reliable than the land-based equivalent.

RE: Ummm...
By retrospooty on 1/9/2008 5:14:20 PM , Rating: 2
"In the SF area, that is a novel idea in which to have data spread out through-out.. IF a raging storm was comming, the ship could leave port."

Storms that are severe enough that ships need to leave port don't hit California ever, so that wont even need to happen.

RE: Ummm...
By SiliconAddict on 1/9/2008 6:09:02 PM , Rating: 2
One word.....tsunami
And if, on the off chance, you think such a thing can't hit the West cost you are delusional.
Three additional words...ring of fire.

RE: Ummm...
By retrospooty on 1/9/2008 6:16:12 PM , Rating: 2
OK, thats possible, but none have hit CA since at least prior to the 1700's, so its pretty good odds.

RE: Ummm...
By rcc on 1/9/2008 7:09:16 PM , Rating: 2
Wrong answer, several have hit this century. Most with minimal damage. But you might look up Crescent City Tsunami some time.

Granted that is "just barely" CA.

RE: Ummm...
By Samus on 1/10/2008 2:23:37 AM , Rating: 2
h4ck d4 g1b$0n!!!

RE: Ummm...
By retrospooty on 1/10/2008 9:33:50 AM , Rating: 2
OK, there has not been a significant tsunami on record. Significant meaning larger utility ships would be damaged.

RE: Ummm...
By masher2 on 1/10/2008 10:09:27 AM , Rating: 2
See the article thumbnail photo above? That's what happens when a "larger utility ship" encounters 7 meter waves...the size of those in the Crescent City tsunami.

Would it sink the ship? No, but I'd lay odds it'd shut down an onboard datacenter, and server any landline connection.

RE: Ummm...
By rcc on 1/10/2008 5:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
Did you look up the Crescent City tsunami? A significant portion of the downtown area was flooded, and lives lost. They still have city wide (town wide) tsunami drills.

RE: Ummm...
By Mojo the Monkey on 1/11/2008 7:16:33 PM , Rating: 2
Have you been to the SF Bay area? most of the docking areas where this kind of project would take place are on the INSIDE of the bay, where there is virtually no wave presence. Even during a "mighty storm", i think you'd be hard pressed to find a sunken row boat.

RE: Ummm...
By rcc on 1/18/2008 5:17:44 PM , Rating: 2
The comment was that CA didn't have any damaging storms or tsunamis. Not so.

RE: Ummm...
By wushuktl on 1/10/2008 6:56:46 AM , Rating: 2
this is silly. you think a giant cargo ship could outrun a tsunami?

RE: Ummm...
By Mojo the Monkey on 1/11/2008 7:18:01 PM , Rating: 2
While I am not commenting on the feasibilty of disconnecting servers just to outrun a storm; there is a big difference between leaving port ahead of a storm and "outrunning" a storm.

RE: Ummm...
By masher2 on 1/9/2008 5:48:25 PM , Rating: 4
> "It makes sense technologically"

I disagree. Anything and everything maritime-related is 2-10X more expensive than normal. Maintaining a large ship is enormously costly. Even something as simple as a flush toilet is ridiculously expensive. There are dozens of systems needed on a ship which aren't even neccesary on land...and the constant exposure to moist salt air erodes everything far faster than normal.

Sure, sea water is "free air conditioning", but you can easily pipe sea water to a land-based coastal site...or use river or lake water, which isn't filled with highly-corrosive salt.

The sole advantage I see is it allows you to still site in the Bay area (home to the most expensive real estate market in the nation) and tap into the labor market there.
But personally, I still think it makes more economic sense to build somewhere where both land and labor are cheap,

RE: Ummm...
By Clauzii on 1/9/2008 7:32:52 PM , Rating: 2
Yes. I also don't like the idea of a floating datacenter getting pirated by a bunch of tug boats.

With a great danger of BIG-time data loss.

"Damn, they took our ocean of data!"

RE: Ummm...
By Clauzii on 1/9/2008 7:36:14 PM , Rating: 1
Which btw. brings me back to a Dolphin, a Metalmonster and some large amount of data in my head!


RE: Ummm...
By Clauzii on 1/9/2008 7:55:56 PM , Rating: 2
misplaced thread - sorry :(

Was supposed to be in 'subtitle'-thread..

RE: Ummm...
By Clauzii on 1/10/2008 3:10:23 PM , Rating: 2
Even this thread points to the wrong post - don't get it..

RE: Ummm...
By Chris Peredun on 1/9/2008 3:30:01 PM , Rating: 2
Given the (ridiculous) real estate market in the Bay Area, getting 200,000sq-ft of datacenter online by floating it in the ocean is probably an order of magnitude cheaper than buying local land.

I realize it doesn't address the idea of operating out-of-state (or country even) - but I think that's the driving force behind this venture.

RE: Ummm...
By FITCamaro on 1/9/2008 3:34:45 PM , Rating: 2
Yes but doesn't that area already have data centers servicing it?

To me it would be a huge liability. I mean any number of things could go wrong. Operating extremely sensitive and expensive servers on a boat with tons of salt air and possible leaks just sounds foolish. Especially considering these boats are second hand.

The guy mentioning that the water can help cool the computers has a valid argument but I just think the risks outweigh the benefits.

RE: Ummm...
By Alexstarfire on 1/9/2008 3:41:50 PM , Rating: 2
You have risks no matter what. They are really just different risks now. I'm sure the fact that they are probably saving hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps millions, by using refurbed ships, outweighs the risks. Even if they had land, they'd either have to get land that had a datacenter the size they were looking for, or they'd have to build the building themselves. Building stuff takes time, lots of time.

RE: Ummm...
By tdktank59 on 1/9/2008 7:23:56 PM , Rating: 2
If you read the whole article you would see that the salt water will be used to cool the air just like the air cools the air with AC's anyways... instead of using the liquid in acs they will use the salt water which mind you is "free" (pumps and thats about it) and stays at a pretty constant friken cold temperature over here in the sf bay.

So really id see it as just an efficient way as the acs work nowadays...

I think in all this is a cool idea the only problem i can see is the fact that its a boat...

RE: Ummm...
By Clauzii on 1/9/2008 7:50:15 PM , Rating: 1
Last line kicked me - ROFL

RE: Ummm...
By PandaBear on 1/9/2008 4:25:53 PM , Rating: 2
You forgot that docks are more expensive than land in the same area.

RE: Ummm...
By peternelson on 1/10/2008 11:48:21 AM , Rating: 2
Whilst Real Estate prices are a consideration, according to Data Center University (by APC),

SPACE accounts for only 15% of typical datacentre costs (in a TCO analysis). That includes both the land, cost of building construction/alterations.

Sure you can save a little on land, but still have to buy the ship, pay to dock it, have guys scuba out to remove barnacles or repair corrosion? Indeed some of your other costs may increase to compensate eg more maintainance of cooling system because of salt water, more expensive power from ship generator (not to mention more environmental pollution), more difficult fire suppression (and difficulty for the fire department to get to you to hose it) etc.

FYI the other costs are:

20% electricity costs (the combination of load power and cooling etc)
18% power equipment (eg UPS/PDUs)
6% cooling equipment
18% engineering and installation
15% service / maintainance
2% rack enclosures
1% system monitoring
5% project management

Over a 10 year lifecycle, TCO may reach $80K-150K per rack of equipment! I'd say this makes real estate costs a minor consideration.

For a Bond movie villain scenario a data centre on a ship sounds cool although I like the underground bases better.

Just taking the idea further, how about on board Air Force One, I'm sure they have racks of equipment on there. So with Wimax and satellite comms, why not just forget the carbon emissions, and FLY your datacentre! (Answer: because real estate costs are not your biggest costs in running a datacentre).

I'd suggest that for those who are paranoid about the jurisdiction or tamperability, launch some picosats (small satellites) at relatively low cost, establish a free space network between them for peer to peer, and use satellite downlinks for comms to earth. If all you want is to host some encryption keys securely you could do far worse. Of course there's the possibility that some states eg China, USA might decide to target and shoot down your picosats but you could at least install a proximity based self destruct device so your keys could not be compromised.

RE: Ummm...
By peternelson on 1/10/2008 12:00:00 PM , Rating: 2
It's possible that you could save on some kind of property taxes by locating on a ship rather than onshore, but of course property taxes are included within the building space costs of the above figures already.

I'm not saying it can't be done.....

In my city of Newcastle there has for a long time been a floating night club - on a ship moored under the famous Tyne Bridge. To avoid getting stung for taxes or other legislation, it can't be permanent so they have TWO ships: Tuxedo Princess and Tuxedo Royale, and they alternate them every maybe year so that they can't be classified as permanent ;-) This has been going on for a long time, but of course with a datacentre you don't want to unplug your interconnect fiber (thus downing your servers and killing your availability stats) every 6 mths or year. It's an unwanted cost to pay property taxes but if that is so much of a concern, why not locate your datacentre in one of the many foreign jurisdictions where there are zero property taxes? (Answer: taxes are still not a large proportion of costs, when you look at other factors like electricity cost and price per KWHr).

RE: Ummm...
By Mojo the Monkey on 1/11/2008 7:24:43 PM , Rating: 2
OOoOOo! Orbiting data satellite!

Unfortunately, you have a situation where a hacker could permanently destroy the entire project by hijacking guidance/propulsion systems.

RE: Ummm...
By Screwballl on 1/9/2008 3:40:50 PM , Rating: 2
Just keep them off the east coast and gulf coast of the US... too large of a chance of hurricanes.

RE: Ummm...
By FITCamaro on 1/9/2008 3:45:10 PM , Rating: 2
Anywhere in a port north of Georgia would be fine. It's not like these are going to be in the open sea.

RE: Ummm...
By Bioniccrackmonk on 1/9/2008 3:45:18 PM , Rating: 2
Only during certain times of the year and they could just move the ships elsewhere if NOAA were to project one to the area they are at.

RE: Ummm...
By SandmanWN on 1/9/2008 4:32:21 PM , Rating: 2
Too many things wrong with this whole idea.

1. We would have to be pretty damn accurate predicting weather patterns and I'm pretty sure that over the few hundred years we've tried we still haven't accomplished this feat yet.

2. Ships like this that are docked for long periods of time are usually artificially beached next to the pier. Absolutely No guarantees you will be able to get it out in a timely manner. Fiber optic cable bundles aren't meant to move back and forth and would probably need constant maintenance to keep operational.

3. How long does it take to move a ship like this and re strand a few thousand fiber optic cables? I don't know about you but who on earth would rent a data center that could potentially be down for weeks at a time.

4. Said floating data center company goes bankrupt... Solution: Take the data center to open waters and to the nearest country without an extradition treaty. your company => screwed!

5. Corrosive salt water running through pipes to your equipment. Not gonna last very long. Salt water has a way of taking whatever you using to contain it into a maintenance nightmare.

I could go on for a very long time.

The only real legitimate purpose I see for these are along the lines of what another user posted. They are just like the mobile data center semi trucks companies like AT&T use to roll into disaster areas and provide emergency co-locations and data services.

These ships would be ideal for coast line cities (New Orleans comes to mind) and island land masses that are frequented by hurricanes. They steam into port and setup temporary co-lo's until the land based co-lo's are up and running. And that may not even be practical as the hurricane is probably just as likely to destroy the ports on its way in.

RE: Ummm...
By Clauzii on 1/9/2008 7:46:57 PM , Rating: 1
I would suggest some kind of VERY fast "Always-Connected" wireless transmission. That would solve at least two of your mentioned problems :)
But probable put a great deal of more expences on the project too!

The other points I'll agree in. Floating datacentres would only be good for military use, I think, unless they already have it?

RE: Ummm...
By winterspan on 1/10/2008 12:43:37 AM , Rating: 2
1) Weather patterns? Barring a devastating tsunami which is a 1:10,000 year event, California hardly receives any large damaging storms. I mean when's the last time you saw a "Nor-easter" roar into the california coast? :)

2) Who's talking about moving the ship? Obviously with all the fiber/power setup, it wouldn't be going anywhere.


4) WTF? What purpose would that serve? If the company went bankrupt, I'd expect they'd liquidate assets AKA sell the ship and server hardware.

5) Would anyone want to run salt water through their "equipment"? I assume a simple heat exchanger would cool fresh water or some similar setup.

With the price of commercial real estate in the Bay Area, this may very well be a "legitimate purpose". Surely in Asia .

RE: Ummm...
By FITCamaro on 1/10/2008 6:42:27 AM , Rating: 2
Well if you listened to the media enough recently, that round of storms that hit California were a sure sign of the apocalypse.

Of course they do the same crap whenever even a tropical storm hits Florida.

"YOU'RE ALL GONNA DIE!! GO BUY CRAP YOU DON'T NEED!!.......oh and sunny tomorrow with a slight chance of showers...."

RE: Ummm...
By masher2 on 1/10/2008 7:58:55 AM , Rating: 3
> "Would anyone want to run salt water through their "equipment"? "

In a maritime environment, you can't avoid it. You're sitting on a continuously-evaporating body of water, being heated by thousands of gigawatts of solar energy. Being constantly surrounded by moist salt air is why anything metal onboard ship has to be specially anodized, or repainted often.

Of course, you can always enclose all the equipment in a sealed, humidity-controlled environment, but that adds a substantial amount of cost.

If the ship is left docked, its going to occupy dock space even more valuable than the real-estate on land. If its keep slightly off-shore, you have to generate all your power via on-board diesel engines (more expensive than commercial power), plus you have to ferry personnel back and forth, along with answer to a huge number of additional maritime regulations. By law, you'll need a licensed captain and crew of several people...even if you never intend to move. Multiply the crew by three, since you'll be operating 24 hours/day. And maintaining anything on ship is an order of magnitude more expensive than on land.

I truly believe this idea was hatched by someone overwhelmed by the cheap price of surplus cargo ships, but with no experience in the horrendously high costs of operating a large commercial ship.

By therealnickdanger on 1/9/2008 3:29:37 PM , Rating: 2
No word on how company plans to deal with pirates

You wrote the article, so you don't really need it, but +6 to you, Chris.

RE: Subtitle
By FITCamaro on 1/9/2008 3:37:14 PM , Rating: 3
Sir! Johnny Depp just escaped with our booty...I mean servers!!!

RE: Subtitle
By Chris Peredun on 1/9/2008 3:38:55 PM , Rating: 5
Thanks. I had a hard time keeping the jokes in check, but now that we're in the comments section:

"B5." "You sunk my Dataship!"

"Never underestimate the bandwidth of a cargo ship loaded with server containers barreling across the open ocean."

"No word on if pier-to-pier hosting will be permitted."

"Hopefully the company has enough liquid assets to float this - I'd hate to see it capsize and go under."

And the original image I wanted to use for the article - but I couldn't find the un-captioned version ...

RE: Subtitle
By FITCamaro on 1/9/2008 3:43:26 PM , Rating: 2
ROFL on the last one.

RE: Subtitle
By Master Kenobi on 1/10/2008 7:56:43 AM , Rating: 2
"Your shipment of Fail has arrived". Excellent. Now I have something to show for my Fail Boat jokes.

RE: Subtitle
By aalaardb on 1/9/2008 3:56:27 PM , Rating: 3
Is it too late to change it?

All I did was google 'ital florida trieste' and it was the first result.

RE: Subtitle
By peternelson on 1/10/2008 12:16:55 PM , Rating: 2
I am reminded of the large container ship that was recently wrecked off the south coast of England. Containers landed on the beach and hundreds of people came from miles away to help themselves to all manner of goodies like BMW motorcycles....

I just imagine if that had been thousands of dollars of server racks in those containers LOL!

I remember some great pictures from the television coverage of containers laying on the beach and people wheeling away items in wheelbarrows LOL (the ship had 2318 containers).

RE: Subtitle
By peternelson on 1/10/2008 12:30:06 PM , Rating: 2
The BBC story links very good video material which should give you an idea of events, people taking booty, containers on beach and some great footage of the tilted ship MSC Napoli, from timecode 2min to 2min20sec.

From that sequence I nominate the half submerged ship with containers at an angle as a very suitable caption photo ;-)

It's on BBC iplayer I hope some of you outside the UK can also view it successfully.

By Bladen on 1/9/2008 3:21:17 PM , Rating: 2
While The Pirate Bay would actually turn whatever bay they reside in into a bona fide pirate bay, it is not what they are looking for.

What they are looking for is somewhere where there is no laws or regulators. This can only be attained within international waters.

RE: Piratebay...
By PandaBear on 1/9/2008 4:31:46 PM , Rating: 2
That's the first thing I can think of: illegal activities with a new connection every 2 weeks. That takes the term "pirate bay" to a new twist.

One advantage I can think of is lowered labor cost. Send in the admins from India or China and have them work on a ship docked in the US, register them as "sailer" and pay them rupees and yuen instead of dollar.

Sea water?
By jadeskye on 1/9/2008 4:10:56 PM , Rating: 2
I must be wrong because i thought that sea water was highly corrosive. so using it as a cooling device would wear down the plumbing extensively in a computer server set up...

RE: Sea water?
By Imaginer on 1/9/2008 4:21:55 PM , Rating: 1
Its sea water that will run through the radiators of the HVAC systems and they will cool the rooms/conexes containers themselves. I am sure each computer rack will be conventionally cooled.

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