Google Granted Floating Data Center Patent

Google is considering floating data centers because of the practical problems it faces in trying to locate data centers on coastal land, where real estate is typically expensive.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

April 30, 2009

2 Min Read

Detail from Google's patent application for a 'water-based data center.' (click for larger image)

Google on Thursday was granted a patent for its floating data center design, an idea that the company filed to protect on Feb. 26, 2007.

The patent describes techniques for designing a data center located on a ship, platform, or on shore that use the tidal motion of the sea to generate electricity and seawater for equipment cooling.

The patent represents an expansion of Google's prior patent on a data center squeezed into a shipping container, which the company applied for in 2003 and began deploying in 2005.

Google is considering floating data centers because of the practical problems it faces in trying to locate data centers on coastal land, where real estate is typically expensive and where inexpensive electricity and high-bandwidth connections may not be available. A floating data center would also presumably enjoy freedom from property taxes.

"We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail. "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."

At the beginning of the month, Google hosted a Data Center Efficiency Summit where for the first time it revealed information about its containerized data center modules.

Along with being a prolific producer of patents, Google is a member of the Coalition for Patent Fairness, which has been lobbying for patent reform. In a post last month on the company's public policy blog, Michelle Lee, head of patents and patent strategy for Google, complained that "patent trolls" are abusing the patent system and costing companies a fortune in legal bills.

"Google and other companies face mounting legal costs to defend against questionable patent claims from speculators gaming the system to reap windfall profits," she wrote.

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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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