back to article Is it barge? Is it a data center? Mystery FLOATING 'Google thing'

Google may be constructing a floating data center on a large barge in the San Francisco bay. The multistory structure was spotted on a vessel moored off the city's Treasure Island, and some shoe-leather reporting by Cnet suggests the web advertising giant is behind the project. Google patented a design for a floating data …


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  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Giving Google the ability to quickly migrate large amounts of profit to locations

    It's fun to charter an accountant

    And sail the wide accountancy,

    1. LarsG

      Less likely

      To be a data centre and more likely to be a floating prison given that the US prison population is a self perpetuating cash cow.

      1. hplasm

        Re: Less likely

        "I haff a plan- an Escape Plan..."


  2. Gavin Jamie

    Buy and Large

    (with the different spelling) was of course the worldwide (and beyond) corporation in the Disney Pixar film WallE. Would Pixar need anything this big?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Buy and Large

      More likely to be a spoonerism - Lyin' Barge

    2. Bob H

      Re: Buy and Large

      Portable render farm on an extreme scale would be useful for productions that have to spend time in different parts of the world. Presently quite a few films need satellite links from field bases where the director is back to editing/effects companies to transfer the days recordings (rushes) for post production. However, for dailies you probably wouldn't need something *that* big.

      My more immediate though was Google's balloon adventure, those masts on top could be used to create a tent to shield directional antennas from winds?

      Here's another kooky idea, Google could buy out St Helena, float a data centre there and pay for the connectivity the island desperately wants. No one on St Helena would give a fig what Google wants to do if it was to bring money/jobs/internet and they are an independent nation under British protection.

    3. Velv

      Re: Buy and Large

      Since Buy'N'Large were the all dominating evil empire, seems quite fitting if this is backed by Google

  3. ElNumbre
    Thumb Up

    Paste Reference Here

    Insert generic joke about seamen pumping internet for a change.

  4. K

    Probably a

    Prison barge -

  5. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Landing craft

    Didn't Larry "blofeld" Ellison just buy an island?

  6. David 164

    Another article.

    Google may well already have one operational, a second barge owned by By & Large. The question becomes how many more does Google own.

  7. David 164

    There these two registered to By and Large as mention in the article,



    An then By and Large also owns this one as well,


    Cannot find anymore, but its seem Google has secretly built itself a small fleet. All built to the same spec. If Google has built more they are using different code names or holding companies. One would think Google would launched a prototype version using a ready built vessel.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      They're going to do it!

      What if these aren't data centers, but will become corporate headquarters' buildings? They'll truly be non-resident anywhere with a tax collector.

      1. David 164

        Re: They're going to do it!

        By and Large have also register, Bal0100, ship number 4

        Bal0100 Ship - By and Large Llc - San Francisco, California - Ships

        There is no ship number 5 registered so far. An I have tried to find a ship zero, a prototype vessel but so far no luck.

        I would hope Google would have added a few more windows to the design if they were meant for Google new corporate headquarters.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They're going to do it!

          "There is no ship number 5 registered so far. An I have tried to find a ship zero, a prototype vessel but so far no luck."

          You have to wonder if the "not quite covert" approach is all part of the intention, keeping a bit of mystery to make the world think how clever they are? Had this been fitted in the holds of a ageing bulk carrier it would have been invisible. Likewise, wandering around wearing your Google badge can be a bit of a giveaway.

          1. Marvin the Martian

            Re: They're going to do it!

            The binary counting scheme suggests B&L will never own more than 15 (=2^4 -1), as they started with 0001, then 0010 and 0011.

            1. MrT

              Will ship 5...

     where they keep all of the unwanted bits of the internet...? It probably needs something larger than just one room.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. BlindWanderer

    We are in cyberpunk territory. Has echoes of William Gibson, though it's the Karl Schroeder story "To Hie from Far Celenia" that comes to mind. It describes an ARG that has it's own RW assets, which includes a city of containers that circle the globe on container ships, from which it's denizens commute to work, virtually of course.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google to invade China?

    The Great Armada is being assembled in SF Bay, waiting for the Spanish court to declare China infidels to human rights.

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Google Apps sans Frontières?

    Floating data centers will give Google the ability to quickly migrate large amounts of compute resources to locations in urgent need of bit-crunching, or even allow it to float compute clusters around the world to lower latency for info-hungry areas.

    I don't whether organically transplanting humanitarian organizations' vocabulary into computing makes a whole lot of sense. Unlike energy, bags of rice and polio vaccinations, heating silicium for the sake of rearranging charges encased in epoxy as quickly as possible can be done independently of where the final beneficiary of such entropy-reversing action resides.

    Weel, at least it's "logic bombing for the freeduhms".

  11. T. F. M. Reader

    Under flag of convenience in international waters?

    Or as a sovereign archipelago nation?

    One has to wonder whether the intent is to avoid National Security Letters or any future privacy legislation restricting indiscriminate bulk information gathering? Tax advantages would be just a fringe benefit, totally unintended, of course.

    1. 142

      Re: Under flag of convenience in international waters?

      Hmmm... in international waters, they're more than a tad vulnerable to physical intervention!

    2. Mpeler

      Re: Under flag of convenience in international waters?

      Maybe Google could then host The Pirate Bay?

      Better yet, rename San Francisco Bay to Pirate Bay, for a trademark tie-in...

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Google is building secret prisons...

    Let's see those pesky publishing houses complain about Google now!

  13. cs94njw

    I wonder if there's any tax benefits?

    Or jurisdiction matters over the data held...

    And if they used water-based WiFi, they could be tied to no landmass.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I wonder if there's any tax benefits?"

      Property taxes apply to buildings (or potentially land), and I can't see them being able to levy these on a vessel. Obviously there's port fees, but if you're moored offshore those will be minimal (or perhaps avoidable). There may also be some interesting exemptions from energy efficiency rules or taxes that would apply to a building, and for a data centre could help the financials. And in some areas there's restrictive planning laws that apply to buildings, meaning that the local government can mandate the location, appearance, construction of a bit barn, as well as demanding "planning gains" that are just a tax on the company that evnetually operate the site - typically no similar restrictions apply on floating assets.

  14. another_vulture

    Other benefits

    A big problem with tax incentives is that they can be changed. A land-based data center is hard to move when the local tax structure changes, while a barge can be moved more easily.

    Barges can be built in a single place, assembly-line fashion, with the bulk of the work done in efficient asian yards. Fixed centers must be built in place using local labor.

  15. arctic_haze
    Black Helicopters

    Where is Bond when we need him?

    Google generally looks like a 007 movie front for a world takeover plot.

    It seems they are now commencing the implementation phase.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Where is Bond when we need him?

      Not enough fluffy cats.

      1. breakfast Silver badge

        Re: Where is Bond when we need him?

        Not enough fluffy cats? Are you sure? Have you seen the internet?

  16. Bladeforce

    I love Google so unpredictable so monopolistic but yet there's something about them that makes me prefer them over Apple/Microsoft anyday

  17. Mike 16


    Let me know if one of these barges heads for the Philipines.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seawater cooling

    One would assume it has distilled (or at least fresh) water onboard, and the seawater cools that water via a heat exchanger, rather than piping nasty corroding seawater (and whatever else was in it) through all the piping to the servers.

  19. david 12 Silver badge

    quickly migrate large amounts of compute resources

    And quickly migrate large amounts of computer data. Sure it would take a couple of weeks to get to Europe, but consider the volume of data that could be transported. Syncing Google might actually be quicker by sea.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: quickly migrate large amounts of compute resources

      One container full of harddisks would be enough for that. or not?

  20. gregthecanuck

    Well obviously for large computational loads

    They are looking for improved floating-point performance.

    I'll get my raincoat...

  21. Andrew 98

    Disaster Recovery?

    If it is to stay in the area, a floating data-centre may seem a brilliant idea if / when the next earthquake hits the San Fransisco area. Not sure about Tsunamis though.

  22. Fooen Mahf

    International waters

    Based solely on the photo in the article, those barges are just ordinary dumb barges, without their own propulsion. They would need to be towed everywhere and then anchored, moored, berthed or docked in a safe haven. Even if the barges did have dynamic positioning, they would need refuelling and a full time marine crew to handle her, therefore provisions delivered and waste taken away. I for one would NOT like to spend any length of time on a flat hulled barge in International waters off in the Pacific, or anywhere. Jackup rigs and semisubmersibles are much better for that.

    My point is that the barges are designed to be transportation vessels that end up in someone's sheltered back yard, and therefore would not remain long in International waters.

  23. BJS

    Google's new business model

    Advertising revenue is so early 21st century. While Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, et al, fight over dwindling ad revenues, Google is going to build a huge fleet of floating datacenters, float them to thirsty nations, and use their generated heat to desalinate seawater.

  24. Stevie


    Set up a datacenter in Greenland or Iceland and save even more money on cooling.

  25. Hawkmoth

    tax and court dodgers

    I like the idea that they're going off-shore to avoid court orders and taxes.

  26. Spaller

    Eureka Moment

    Given the lack of displacement of the loaded barge as compared to the unloaded one adjacent to it, the loaded barge is not heavily loaded, and therefore is somewhat hollow inside. Hence not a data center.

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