This week, the United States Patent Office awarded Google a patent for floating data centers. Filed in 2007, it took nearly two years to be approved and combines computing equipment with electrical generators to provide large-scale computer power from any body of water.
A system includes a floating platform-mounted computer data center comprising a plurality of computing units, a sea-based electrical generator in electrical connection with the plurality of computing units, and one or more sea-water cooling units for providing cooling to the plurality of computing units.
According to the patent description, electricity for the data center could possibly be generated by the water itself. Though there is no guarantee Google will ever put a server out to sea, the company claims its idea could allow for cheap expansion of the Internet backbone. It also states that because many users live near bodies of water, data centers could be easily built and moved where needed to provide web users with the fastest speeds possible.
For example, a floating data center could be placed off the coast of Chicago in Lake Michigan to expand its Internet backbone without having to buy expensive land. Water-based data centers could also be used in areas affected by natural disasters, such as New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
The search engine giant has not stated what it might do with its patent. There have been rumors for years that it plans to start offering Internet service to home users, but large companies like Google will file hundreds of patents every month and only ever make use of one or two of them.