Is Google Building Floating Data Centers on Coasts?

Reports from San Francisco, Maine suggest so

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 26, 2013 7:48 AM CDT

(Newser) – A pair of secretive barges—one on the West Coast and the other on the East—is fueling speculation that Google is turning its theoretical idea of floating data centers into reality. The company isn't confirming anything, however. One of the mystery structures is being built on a barge floating off Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, and investigative reporter Daniel Terdiman of CNET rounds up a boatload of circumstantial evidence suggesting that it is indeed Google behind the four-story "secret project," as the locals call it. What's more, various experts say the specs match perfectly with the concept of a floating data center, an idea that Google patented in 2009.

Among the advantages: Such a center could not only draw power from the ocean but use its water to cool all those servers. The other mystery barge is now sitting in the harbor of Portland, Maine, reports the local Press Herald. It carries a secret structure of its own about the same size as the one in San Francisco. The story floats a number of possibilities to explain it, with a Google data center being one of them. It all seems to add up, writes Chris Taylor at Mashable. "Keeping data in the oceans would cut millions from Google's data storage costs," he writes. "And it can't have failed to escape the company's attention that putting data centers in international waters would theoretically put it beyond the reach of government interference. Sorry, NSA." (In other Google news, the company looks to be backtracking on a promise about banner ads.)

File photo of a pair of boats making their toward Clipper Cove on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay.
File photo of a pair of boats making their toward Clipper Cove on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
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