So ... is anyone surprised that Google might build a sea-faring server farm?

UPDATE: This post has new material added at the end . . .

A floating data center?

After some impressive sleuthing, a reporter at the tech news site CNET reported Friday that Google may be building a massive data center that’s currently floating on a barge adjacent to Treasure Island, in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

Emphasis on “may” be building, because Google hasn’t confirmed or commented on the report.  But CNET’s Daniel Terdiman assembled a persuasive account from disparate sources –  including a lot of intriguing secrecy around the project, as well as leasing records that led to a commercial real estate broker whose LinkedIn profile identified him as representing Google.  Or at least it did until Terdiman’s inquiries were apparently followed by an abrupt scrubbing of that profile, to remove all Google references.

Just why any tech company would want to build a sea-faring data center is unclear.  But as Terdiman notes, Google is known for some unlikely projects, including its self-driving car, the balloons it hopes will carry Internet service to underserved parts of the world, and even the wearable device known as Google Glass.

The CNET scribe also unearthed a 2009 patent granted to Google for a floating data-center, and spoke with an IT expert who pointed out that such a contraption would have virtually unlimited access to water – which is an excellent cooling agent for the high temperatures that data centers are known to produce.

Hewlett-Packard, Dell and other commercial tech companies have long been putting portable data centers inside shipping containers, so this might be a new approach to delivering IT services to remote locations.  Or maybe it’s to help run the infrastructure on some yet-to-be-announced Google Island?

UPDATE:  Now there’s another theory about the floating structure.  CBS affiliate KPIX is reporting on its website that some of its unnamed sources say Google “is actually building a floating marketing center, a kind of giant Apple store, if you will — but for Google Glass, the cutting-edge wearable computer the company has under development.”

KPIX said Google  “hopes to tow the completed structure from Treasure Island across the Bay to San Francisco’s Fort Mason, where it would be anchored and open to the public.”  But this report says the project mysteriously stalled after running into permit problems.

Stay tuned . . .

(Publicity photo from the 2012 movie “Battleship” courtesy of Universal Pictures … because we didn’t have a photo of the alleged floating data center)

Brandon Bailey Brandon Bailey (350 Posts)

Brandon Bailey covers Google, Facebook and Yahoo for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on the business and culture of the Internet.