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Google's pending patent for its barge includes liquid cooling from sea water and tidal power.  (Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

A view of the floating tidal power generator that Google is cooking up.  (Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)
Energy and tax savings are key to Google's oceanic plans

You use Google search all the time.  You've probably heard of Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Maps.  Maybe you've even heard of Google Gears.  But what about Google Navy? 

That's precisely what Google plans to create -- its own "computer navy".  According to reports, Google is starting to get serious about its plans to possibly create a fleet of barges hauling the supercomputers to power its search engine.  The barges would be anchored approximately seven miles (11km) offshore and would enjoy a myriad of benefits.

One perk is that Google could forward its alternative energy efforts, as it plans to harness tidal power, a continuous uninterruptible power source.  This could save it millions in energy costs in years to come.  Google also could plans to use the sea for cooling its supercomputers.  The cold ocean water makes a perfect heat sink when circulated over hot electronics.

Another key advantage of Google's floating fleet would be tax exempt status.  They would no longer have to pay property taxes.  Exactly how much this would save Google is unknown as it is secretive about exactly where its data centers are and how many there are.  However, common sense states that the savings would be significant, definitely in the millions of dollars yearly.

Google has filed a patent application for its designs.  The application describes:
Computing centres are located on a ship or ships, 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.
With power costs rising, operation of the often football field-sized supercomputers used in data centers is at an all time high.  This is forcing Google and others too look at alternative ways of getting power.  While only consuming 1 percent of the world's electricity in 2005, the rampant growth of the internet, particularly in developing nations like India and China, has fueled an unquenchable thirst for internet processing and with it soaring power requirements.  McKinsey, a consultancy firm, and the Uptime Institute, a think tank, have produced a report which predicts that by 2020 data centers will have a bigger carbon footprint than the airline industry.

Google is not alone in its exotic plans.  Microsoft is considering building data centers in Siberia, while Sun Microsystems recently unveiled plans to build a data center within an abandoned coal mine in Japan, where natural water springs would cool the system.  Just from the savings in electricity the natural cooling would provide, Sun expects to save $9M USD yearly.

Tech experts are praising the innovative thinking of Google and others.  Rich Miller, the author of the blog waxes, "It’s really innovative, outside-the-box thinking."

Google is playing its cards close to its chest, stating merely, "We file patent applications on a variety of ideas. Some of those ideas later mature into real products, services or infrastructure, some don’t."

One key concern for all the exotic data center plans is how to safeguard them against the elements.  For Google the main risks include ocean storms and how to deal with corrosion from the salt.  Microsoft's Siberia plans carry their own risks, such as blizzards and poor power coverage -- and Sun's are no safer -- they have to deal with the possibility of mine collapse and exposure to coal dust.

In all, these datacenters of the future have many hurdles to overcome.  However, as the saying goes necessity is the mother of all invention, so don't be surprised to see them popping up soon.

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RE: How to be number one in Internet:
By omnicronx on 9/16/2008 10:30:47 AM , Rating: 5
Or the cheap and effective way of merely dragging an anchor across the ocean floor...

RE: How to be number one in Internet:
By MrBeans on 9/16/2008 12:15:24 PM , Rating: 4
We are googlewater, we will own the waterways too. Is it just me, or is google getting scary?

RE: How to be number one in Internet:
By Gzus666 on 9/16/2008 12:26:58 PM , Rating: 3
It is scary they are patenting things? They are patenting a way to make power for their data center, not a way to take over the waterways. And I thought I was paranoid.

RE: How to be number one in Internet:
By Oregonian2 on 9/16/2008 12:53:53 PM , Rating: 2
If there's patents, it must be for implementation details because the overall idea is just a composite (theoretically not patentable) and the idea of tidal power generation has already been around for a while.

RE: How to be number one in Internet:
By Gzus666 on 9/16/2008 2:03:05 PM , Rating: 2
OK, and how is that scary? That is for the patent office and lawyers to handle, which I assume understand all the technical aspects to make the decision.

RE: How to be number one in Internet:
By Oregonian2 on 9/16/2008 4:46:45 PM , Rating: 2
It's not scary. Did I say it was scary? Not me.

RE: How to be number one in Internet:
By grath on 9/16/2008 10:03:45 PM , Rating: 2
Lawyers and the USPTO are scarier by far

By Spivonious on 9/16/2008 12:39:17 PM , Rating: 3
Google's already been scary. Where have you been?

RE: How to be number one in Internet:
By Googer on 9/16/2008 4:11:39 PM , Rating: 2
Here is a video of the device google wants to implement.

RE: How to be number one in Internet:
By Googer on 9/16/2008 4:13:21 PM , Rating: 2
Technical Animation of the device:

RE: How to be number one in Internet:
By grath on 9/16/2008 10:27:10 PM , Rating: 2
I have always visualized tidal or wave power more like an underwater wind farm, or some elaborate pulley system needing to anchor of the seabed or an oil platform like facility.

Those Sea Snakes on the other hand, look amazing more simple and plausible than I expected. Easily built in drydock and towed out, well suited for mass production, no supporting infrastructure required just drop anchor and plug it in, no fancy new technologies mainly just good old fashioned robust mechanics. And it really does look like it will actually work.

It has a beauty of simplicity to it and I can see why it would appeal to Google, it very much seems like their style.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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