Yes, apparently the mighty Google is pursuing putting some of its massive data centers aboard floating platforms at sea in order to secure a more secure and green approach towards storing data. Google submitted a patent application in February of 2007 for water based data centers. The patent is primarily to secure rights to the technology that involve powering and cooling a floating data center using alternative sources of energy such as wave power and sea water.
For those unfamiliar with data centers, they typically require enormous amounts of cooling and various sources of back-up power. Data centers for Google obviously are some of the largest. Security is another big concern with data centers. They typically have a very high level of security, including using biometric scanning in order to gain access.
A small Silicon Valley startup named International Data Security (IDS) announced in January of 2008 that it was intending to purchase a small fleet of old cargo ships to setup a similar network of datacenters. The company intended to keep its floating data centers moored permanently inside San Francisco Bay unlike Google’s offshore plans. Initial plans called for the first ship to be moored at a pier along the San Francisco waterfront, however it appears this project never got off the ground.
My maritime background tells me that an offshore platform may be more suitable for a water based data center over a floating structure. Floating platforms carry obvious risks of sinking and unwanted movement in storms. An oil platform type structure would provide stability while still being able to tap the resources of the ocean for power and cooling. The question is, will the cost of construction and maintenance be cost effective? Will the savings gained by using the free resources of the ocean pay for the high cost of operating at sea?