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Google Chocolate Factory patents Data Center Navy

Water cooling, wave power, zero property tax

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The Mountain View Chocolate Factory has received a patent on its plans for a navy of podified data centers.

On Tuesday, the US Patent Office gave Google exclusive rights to what the search giant cum world power calls a "water-based data center." This collection of Googlicious data center pods would sit on some sort of sea vessel anchored somewhere offshore, using the ocean waves for both power and cooling.

As the patent describes it: "Computing centers are located on a ship or ships, which are then 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 from computers in the data center."

And as Data Center Knowledge points out, such computing centers would be free of real estate and property taxes.

Google Floating Data Center

Google's seaworthy data center

These seaworthy data centers might be semi-fixed operations. Or they could provide portable computer resources in times of trouble. "For example," the patent reads, "a military presence may be needed in an area, a natural disaster may bring a need for computing or telecommunication presence in an area until the natural infrastructure can be repaired or rebuilt, and certain events may draw thousands of people who may put a load on the local computing infrastructure.

"Often, such transient events occur near water, such as a river or an ocean. However, it can be expensive to build and locate data centers, and it is not always easy to find access to necessary (and inexpensive) electrical power, high-bandwidth data connections, and cooling water for such data centers."

As the Chocolate Factory belatedly admitted last month, it's already piecing together land-bound data centers using intermodal shipping containers pre-packed with servers and cooling equipment. And these same data-center pods would serve as the building blocks for its Data Center Navy.

In some cases, the patent explains, the pods might be pieced together on dry land near an anchored ship equipped to provide ocean-based power and cooling. But whether the pods are off-shore or not, the floating barge would provide power via so-called Pelamis machines, Scottish-designed contraptions that convert waves to electricity.

Some have questioned whether Google would actually attempt such a thing. But until recently, voices said much the same about pods. Famously, Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive publicly pitched the pod idea in the fall of 2003, and that December, the Chocolate Factory filed a patent application outlining a modular data center of its own.

According to Kahle and a legendary 2005 expose from Robert X. Cringely, Google co-founder Larry Page was in the audience for one Internet Archive pitch just over a month before the patent filing. The patent was granted in October 2007.

After its latest patent award, we asked Google if it cared to comment. It did and it didn't. "We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with," reads a canned statement from the company. "Some of those ideas later mature into real products, services or infrastructure, some don't. We do a lot to make our infrastructure scalable and cost efficient, but at this time we have nothing to announce regarding this specific technology."

We wouldn't be surprised if somewhere in Mountain View, tucked into Bond-villain-esque underground lair, there's an epic sea-water tank, a wall of wave machines, and a prototype. ®

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