Is Google building a floating datacenter?

Google could be building a new data center — on top of a barge that could take it anywhere in the ocean.

CNET gives a comprehensive report on a secret project underway on San Francisco's Treasure Island. Someone is building something out of shipping containers on top of an old barge — but the whole project is fenced off, so it's impossible to get closer.

There’s no confirmation that Google is responsible, but telling factors point to the company being involved.

Google won patents for water-based data centers in 2009. Photos obtained through Google’s own mapping service show a fenced-off collection of shipping containers outside a building known as Hangar 3.

People with access badges for that same Hangar 3 have been known to buy food at nearby shops with Google-branded credit cards, and a contact number on the property lease leads to a dead-end phone somewhere within Google.

If you can keep the saltwater from corroding the sensitive electronics, a boat-based datacenter has unique upsides.

"The advantages of such a project would be the cheap and efficient cooling, using seawater. The cooling is one of the biggest expenses of a datacenter." (Via Softpedia)

And no, you wouldn’t have to plug it in.

"It's theoretically possible to power it by generating electricity from wave motion—about as clean a source of energy as you can imagine." (Via ReadWrite)

Of course, floating it out away from land-based computer networks could prevent high-speed connections to whatever Google stores there.

"Another potential issue will be shuttling data in and out of the floating byte bucket, but since Google owns a world-spanning fibre-optic cable it could theoretically tap its ocean-bound facility into this." (Via The Register)

Still, such a datacenter could theoretically be moved anywhere across the world's oceans, or as Mashable points out, held in international waters outside the jurisdiction or surveillance range of governments.

There’s no indication as to when this floating project might launch. If it is Google behind the construction, we’ll have to wait for it to say something.

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