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Startup Building Floating Data Centers 256

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the we're-leaking-bits-into-the-sea dept.
1sockchuck writes "A Bay Area startup is planning to build data centers on cargo container ships, which would be docked at piers in major Internet markets. The company, known as IDS (International Data Security) says it plans to use biodiesel to power its generators and use heat from equipment to manage temperature on board the ships, reducing their reliance on grid power. IDS is telling prospects that it hopes to eventually have more than 20 floating data centers docked at ports around the U.S."
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Startup Building Floating Data Centers

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  • by an.echte.trilingue (1063180) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:16AM (#21968654) Homepage
    I bet you could sell server space on one of these to thepiratebay...
  • by faloi (738831) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:16AM (#21968658)
    Sick of stable data centers inland, free from the excitement that comes from not knowing whether your data center will survive the latest hurricane or tropical storm? Tired of never meeting interesting longshoreman on your way to work? Try our new data center model!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
      Yeah, but you have the advantage of actually using sysadmins as galley slaves.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CRCulver (715279)

      Sick of stable data centers inland, free from the excitement that comes from not knowing whether your data center will survive the latest hurricane or tropical storm? Tired of never meeting interesting longshoreman on your way to work? Try our new data center model!

      On the other hand, think about the marketing potential when you can pitch this sort of data centre to nerds brought up on Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash [amazon.com] as the Raft come to life. And didn't glimpses of the future in old popular science magazi

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by faloi (738831)
        My guess is nerds brought up on Snow Crash will get nervous and start making sure there's no makeup covering up tattoos on the salespeople's forehead. But they might be nervous enough to buy into it. And they'd probably become more aware of their obligation to pizza delivery folks.
    • by an.echte.trilingue (1063180) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:13PM (#21969538) Homepage
      Except that they appear to be researching their locations pretty carefully. San Francisco does not have hurricanes or tropical storms as the water around it is too shallow to hold all the energy. Besides, the Bay is just that: A bay. I don't know if you've ever been to SF, but pier 50 is way south well inside the bay. It is very safe.

      The land in that area is another issue. San Francisco was nearly completely leveled a couple of times in the 20th century alone by earthquakes.

      I think that the data-center on ships idea is great...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by superdude72 (322167)
        San Francisco was nearly completely leveled a couple of times in the 20th century alone by earthquakes.

        Wha? The '89 Loma Prieta earthquake caused some serious damage but "nearly completely leveled" is a bit of a stretch. And the 1906 disaster was caused by lack of modern building codes and fire protection as much as anything else. Other cities of that era suffered similar disasters without an earthquake as the root cause (Chicago, for instance.)

        There is no reason a data center built from the ground up to su
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I went to school at the University of San Francisco. I worked in the Registrar's office. Every Friday we would make back up tapes of all the school records and drive them up to the a storage facility near Tahoe so that they would survive in case of an earthquake.

          This was only 6 to 10 years ago, so obviously there are still some people who think that "modern building codes" don't cut it for earthquakes and are willing (or legally required, like we were) to take some pretty expensive countermeasures.

          T
        • by Descalzo (898339) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:34PM (#21970786) Journal

          And the 1906 disaster was caused by lack of modern building codes and fire protection as much as anything else.
          I disagree. It was caused by an earthquake.
          • by jc42 (318812) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @03:01PM (#21972072) Homepage Journal

            And the 1906 disaster [in San Francisco] was caused by lack of modern building codes and fire protection as much as anything else.

            I disagree. It was caused by an earthquake.

            In some fields of discourse, there is a traditional distinction between proximate and ultimate causes. A proximate cause is the immediate event that triggered a disaster. Ultimate causes are the earlier conditions that allowed the immediate event to trigger a disaster.

            In this case, the 1906 earthquake was the proximate cause of the disastrous fires. The ultimate causes were the shoddy buildings and infrastructure, which in turn were permitted by the lack of building codes and the "anything goes" frontier nature of the local government.

            The earlier disastrous Chicago fire [wikipedia.org] had a different proximate cause but the same ultimate causes.

            And note that ultimate causes usually are plural. In languages like English that have definite articles, a common logical fallacy is to talk about "the cause" rather than "a cause" or "the causes". For most large civic disasters like these, "the cause" is usually misleading, because there are a long list of conditions that help turn what might have been a minor fire into a conflagration. California has seen a lot of these lately, with their large disastrous brushfires. These have a list of ultimate causes, starting with the climate, and ending with a buildup of dry-plant fuel from landscaping plus failure to properly thin and remove plant material.

            OTOH, here in Boston, one of the largest historical disasters [wikipedia.org] had a single identifiable cause, which sounds like something that the Onion [theonion.com]'s writers would make up, but actually happened and killed at least 21 people (and several horses). And one could argue in this case that the proximate cause was the tank bursting, while there were several ultimate cause such as poor construction of the tank, poor testing and maintenance, warm temperature, fermentation, etc. But the proximate/ultimate terminology doesn't apply well in this case, because all of those causes can be grouped as a single "poor construction and maintenance" cause.
      • by faloi (738831)
        In the case of earthquakes, getting your data center on a ship is essentially like buying insurance. I would guess you'll pay more per year to keep it going, but the earthquake won't scrap your entire data center. You might lose communication for a while, but such is life.

        But is it any more economical doing it that way versus buying some real estate in the middle of South Dakota to house your data center? Or some other centrally located hurricane and earthquake safe area. You'll spend more for data con
  • by russotto (537200) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:18AM (#21968676) Journal
    Never underestimate the bandwidth of a server farm under tow!

    (latency's a bitch, though)
  • terrorism (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bizzeh (851225)
    wouldnt this leave them far more open to forms of terrorism? i.e. if these floating data centers hosted say, all the websites that godaddy.com host (which is alot), and someone "cut the cable" which would be alot easier to find on a ship, since it has to come out of the ship somewhere... all these websites would instantly go online, where in a building, the cable would come in, underground, directly into the rooms the data center occupies. ships are easier to sink that buildings are to destroy.
    if the ships
    • by spleen_blender (949762) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:20AM (#21968736)
      Oh god. Oh god. I am SO excited about this! I can finally live out my dream of being a pirate hacker! I think I just found my calling in life!

      Raiding ship to ship, carrying off booty in binary, sword fights, parrots, wenches! ARRRRGH

      *head asplodes*
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by djsmiley (752149)
      I haven't read it yet..

      Maybe the idea is they can move to the most secure location.... What if the US suddenly goes under marshall law? What if your hosting inte China and they just outlawed the web? They can simply "float" away...
      • re: terrorism (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ed.han (444783)
        actually, given the advent of DHS's C-TPAT program, i would bet that a dock is a lot more physically secure than you might think, to be honest.

        ed
      • 'cause under Marshall law the US Torturer-in-chief has no power to detain ships within it territorial waters??

        I think it's because there is no subpoena power for email servers on a ship.

        AIK

      • by eck011219 (851729)
        Not to be nitpicky, but:

        Marshall Plan: An early U.S. attempt at controlling everyone else's citizens.
        Martial Law: A country's attempt at controlling its own citizens.

        But my anal retentiveness aside, if the U.S. goes under martial law, you can bet that they'll lock down the coastline, too. So whether your data is in a boat, in a moat, or on a goat, they'll get it if they want it. Whatever the benefits of this data center model are, I don't see international independence as one of them. Better to try to affec
        • I suspect these are the conditions under which the "buoyancy of a 100TB datacenter" becomes important. I'm fairly certain the ship will have "remote scuttling capabilities" , and seawater is perhaps the perfect erasing mechanism for touchy data.

          AIK
      • by CRCulver (715279)

        What if the US suddenly goes under marshall law?

        It wouldn't, unless the U.S. Constitution were rewritten by illiterates like yourself. Now, the declaration of martial law is a much more likely development.

      • by gambolt (1146363)
        So it's like hosting in sealand only it moves . . .

        I like it.
    • Based on my general understanding of the way GoDaddy work as a host and their general quality, I like the (possible_ mis-type):

      if these floating data centers hosted say, all the websites that godaddy.com host (which is alot), and someone "cut the cable"...all these websites would instantly go online


      Yes, cut off GoDaddy's interference and the website would suddenly be accessible, rather than overloaded on a crammed server and unavailable! :D
    • by djasbestos (1035410) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:39AM (#21969008)
      They can still use pier to pier connections.
    • How many datacenters have been subject to terrorist attacks so far? The only one that comes close was
      9/11, and even that wasn't primarily an effort to destroy data or disrupt networks.

      To sink a ship, you need a bomb. The same bomb would do quite a lot of damage to the average datacenter building.

      Besides, if you need your datacenter to be really secure, there's always the 'old military bunker' option instead.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by aadvancedGIR (959466)
      I'd think the main interest would not be for classical permanent hosting but for special events like big convention or sport competition. These things are already potential target and usually receive corresponding protection. However, I think they might suffer from Google competition with their server on a truck solution (plus their general expertise in deploying full solutions).
  • "[...] docked at piers in major Internet markets."
    Why would anyone ship data to a major internet market when you can just send it via an attachment? Duh...
  • by wwmedia (950346)
    and how they plan to connect to the shore? lay a fibre cable?

    in a busy port that gets dredged often thats a very bad idea, now we gonna hear about trawlers responsible for datacenters being cut off
    • by Ctrl-Z (28806)
      The same way that the ship is connected to the shore? You don't need to go underwater.
      • by MBGMorden (803437)
        Um, any data center with their cables *THAT* out in the open where some homeless orphan on crutches is risking tripping over the fiber is just going to fit my idea of stable. This is a solution in search of a problem, but in a much worse way: this is a solution that introduces tons of problems and fixes none.
    • Re:well (Score:5, Funny)

      by SnowZero (92219) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:31AM (#21968892)

      and how they plan to connect to the shore? lay a fibre cable?
      piering agreements.
  • D5! (Score:5, Funny)

    by scoser (780371) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:23AM (#21968772) Journal
    You sunk my dataship!
  • by AndGodSed (968378) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:23AM (#21968774) Homepage Journal
    I hope this idea floats, I hope they have enough liquid assets...

    Oh the puns! I can't resist!
  • by putaro (235078) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:24AM (#21968796) Journal
    I wonder just how well one of Suns' "Black Box" containers will last in a salty environment. Salt air corrodes just about everything. The container is built for it, but you'd have to be careful about not opening the doors too often. Putting a data center into a naval environment, even one just rocking at a pier, is a lot more challenging then one in a building away from the shore. There's going to be a lot of cabling going onshore and that will all have to be maintained in ways that you don't have to do when there's no water involved.

    One of their founders is an ex-Navy guy so maybe they've got it all wired. However, I don't think the Navy uses off-the-shelf stuff and buying navalized equipment is a lot more expensive then the just you get at Fry's.
    • by hcdejong (561314)
      In port, the rocking wouldn't be too much of an issue, but ISTR harddrives don't respond well to being on a ship. The gyroscopic effects of constant motion tend to lead to early failure.
      • by peragrin (659227)
        sounds like a good job for Solid State Storage.

        Though really things like this need reliable wireless communication setup to deliver the bandwidth. That way the ship can be in international waters while hosting the Piratebay.

        Ooh I wonder if sealand is going to install a couple of Docks?
      • by ConanG (699649)
        That's assuming the ships will be going anywhere. These ships sound like semi-permanent installations. The rocking of a 100,000 ton ship in port is pretty negligible, as you said. Other than the almost insignificant rocking motion, there shouldn't be any other movement to account for.
    • by ConanG (699649)
      You keep the rooms with equipment positively ventilated. That is, at a higher pressure than atmospheric pressure. When the door opens, the dry air in the room spills out into the atmosphere instead of the wet, salty air entering the room. At least that's how I remember Naval ships working.

      I'm not saying it's just as easy as a land based setup, this is just a particular problem that's been largely solved for quite a while.
    • Sea air should not be much of a problem - first of all it's the spray that is a problem, not the air itself; second it's in port, where the cabling will not be in the water; ships stay tied to shore power for months in shipyards without problems.

      Their is a lot of off the shelf stuff on ships - sailors bring computers, cell phones, mp3 players to sea with them and they survive just fine; not ot mention cruise ships with TVs etc. tha are exposed 24x7 to the same environment without problems.

      It's really no dif
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      I was thinking this would be great near the great lakes.
      No hurricanes or tropical storms. They have some pretty bad storms on the lakes but these ships would be in port so I would think they are okay.
      No saltwater.
      Over all I just don't see the point. Yes data centers in New York City would be expensive but they don't have to be in the city.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mixenmaxen (857917)
      The problem isn't as bad as you might think. Three years ago I moved permanently to my yacht and have been living there with all my gadgets and electronic equipment ever since. Initially I was worried about corrosion, but problems have yet to occur. If you keep sensitive equipment indoors there isn't really a problem.
    • Very expensive (Score:3, Informative)

      by dj245 (732906)
      I think they could air condition the server rooms and take care of this issue. However, I don't think this idea makes much sense. Ships are very expensive to maintain and keep from rusting away. With all the work associated with wastage (rusting), keeping a ship painted etc. I can't understand how this could be cheaper than an office building. They will also probably need a master (captain) 24/7 on the vessel, even though it is tied to the dock unless they do some monkey business with their ship class.
  • Biodiesel? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gothmolly (148874)
    Why bother with biodiesel? Cargo ships use bunker oil, which is 1 step up from crude. They'll already have massive generators and massive fuel capacity, with readily available fuel.

    If they really wanted to be green they'd deploy some sort of thermal gradient generator, sinking piping down below the thermocline of the ocean.
    • by Nossie (753694)
      how big are these ships? would solar arrays on the sides/roofs of the containers be enough to power any of it?
    • by phayes (202222)
      The biodiesel is not for the ship's engines it's for the back-up power generators in case mains power fails. While I can see the benefit of using seawater to reduce cooling costs, I wonder whether ports will allow these ships to heat up local seawater the way a big datacenter would do.
    • by HighOrbit (631451) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @02:31PM (#21971620)
      Because "bio-diesel" sounds niffy, cutting edge, and enviro-friendly. Just the sorta thing that a bay-area tech exec who has money to spend will latch on to. Not to mention that bio-diesel will help them achieve enterprise-level scalability, lower TCO, and higher ROI by leveraging eco-friendly synergies.
  • by Empiric (675968) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:25AM (#21968814) Homepage
    Ship's Register: Floating Point
  • As if having the worlds shipping subject to hijacking and piracy - Now pirates could make off with your own data center.

    On the other hand, it gives a whole new meaning to the term "capital flight" - if the IRS looks like it might be about to sieze your assets, you can float the whole head office to another jurisdiction - or set it up on a tropical island with a volcano.

  • by rodney dill (631059) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:27AM (#21968844) Journal
    Sys admins will only get one pint of grog per day.
  • It just seems that this type of setup will be vulnerable to all sorts of environmental and physical damage that a land-based data center wouldn't be. For instance, the physical connection to fiber would be very vulnerable to vandalism, environmental damage, and even just plain human stupidity. Depending on the port, environmentals could be quite tricky as well.

    Not only that, but how would you get true redundancy? Sure, power could be done, but when it comes to multiple paths for data connections, ports m
    • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:41AM (#21969036) Journal
      I'm going to reply to your post, because you made some salient points. It would do us well to remember that the US Navy has a lot of floating data centers. If anyone here thinks that those Naval war vessels are not brimming with electronics, I urge you to think again. In a barge type setup, you can create climate controlled spaces with little difficulty.

      As for redundancy, I think you are unsure of how vulnerable land based data centers are currently. Even if you bring in large circuits from competing companies, the chances that the local municipality has organized that they both run main fibers along the same railway is high. Power redundancy? Are you serious? Battery backup and generator backed UPS is all you have anyway.

      With a barge setup, your redundancy plan can be to move the whole data center to another area with fiber connections waiting to fire up. In fact, in case of a hurricane, I'd assume that would be the plan anyway. Sure, that means a 24hr downtime, unless you have redundant barges in your plan, in which case it's all a mute argument. If you think 24hr downtime is a long time, try figuring out what Californians just suffered when so many parts of a normally dry network infrastructure were sitting under 3+ feet of water. My company just suffered from that storm last weekend, so don't tell me that land based data centers are less vulnerable.

      I think it could well work out wonderfully.
      • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:15PM (#21969584)

        'm going to reply to your post, because you made some salient points. It would do us well to remember that the US Navy has a lot of floating data centers. If anyone here thinks that those Naval war vessels are not brimming with electronics, I urge you to think again. In a barge type setup, you can create climate controlled spaces with little difficulty.

        The Navy is not exactly hurting for money, and they justify the expense since the electronics are located near its users. This venture is needlessly placing the data center on water, when the data users are mostly land based.

        As for redundancy, I think you are unsure of how vulnerable land based data centers are currently. Even if you bring in large circuits from competing companies, the chances that the local municipality has organized that they both run main fibers along the same railway is high. Power redundancy? Are you serious? Battery backup and generator backed UPS is all you have anyway.

        You will have more options on land. First of all, why place the containers on a ship when a container yard will do? Need to move the data centers to another location... Hire a truck!

        With a barge setup, your redundancy plan can be to move the whole data center to another area with fiber connections waiting to fire up. In fact, in case of a hurricane, I'd assume that would be the plan anyway. Sure, that means a 24hr downtime, unless you have redundant barges in your plan, in which case it's all a mute argument. If you think 24hr downtime is a long time, try figuring out what Californians just suffered when so many parts of a normally dry network infrastructure were sitting under 3+ feet of water. My company just suffered from that storm last weekend, so don't tell me that land based data centers are less vulnerable.

        You are looking at least a 48 to 72 hour downtime (if you are lucky). Being on a large container vessel (TFA is talking about decommissioned container ships), you will need to sail far enough away from the hurricane. Keep in mind the current state of hurricane predictions, the time it takes to disconnect from shore, scheduling a bar pilot, tow, bunkering, and sailing to destination. Once you reach the destination, waiting for bar pilot to board, tow, mooring, and making data connections to shore...

        If you think 24hr downtime is a long time, try figuring out what Californians just suffered when so many parts of a normally dry network infrastructure were sitting under 3+ feet of water. My company just suffered from that storm last weekend, so don't tell me that land based data centers are less vulnerable.

        You could have co-located your data center in another region and switched to them during your emergency... Save the expense of vessel movement and the additional risks involved in ocean transportation. Better yet, use a container and truck your data center to another location further inland... Container based data centers are a neat idea, Container shipped based data center is an idea that went too far.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Gybrwe666 (1007849)
        I agree with you to a certain extent, but I think it comes back to economies of scale. When you factor in maintenance costs for ocean-based vessels, on top of the fact that many land-based data centers are now being built in areas with many cost advantages (being built near large quantities of dark fiber, being built on cheap land, built near energy sources or near areas where renewable energy sources are/will be available, being built to minimize maintenance costs on the infrastructure itself, etc.) I'm n
      • by LWATCDR (28044)
        Shore based still makes more sense in most places.
        1. It will take more than a day to get a ship to a port far enough way from a hurricane to be considered safe. Even if it could 20 knots on average that would only get your about 500 nms. A truck with a container can move at what 60 mph? so in ten hours you can be 600 miles away? Yes you would have traffic issues but those can be dealt with.
        2. You would probably want to move your ship data center for even a CAT 1 or CAT 2 storm. I have been through storms up
      • With a barge setup, your redundancy plan can be to move the whole data center to another area with fiber connections waiting to fire up. In fact, in case of a hurricane, I'd assume that would be the plan anyway. Sure, that means a 24hr downtime, unless you have redundant barges in your plan, in which case it's all a mute argument. If you think 24hr downtime is a long time, try figuring out what Californians just suffered when so many parts of a normally dry network infrastructure were sitting under 3+ feet
  • ...for off-shoring?
  • that Joseph Hazelwood is still looking for a gig.
  • This idea has so many different problems, it is not even vaguely amusing.

    1) They are going to "use heat from equipment to manage temperature on board the ships"? Huh? Unless these things are parked in the Arctic, "temperature management" in a data center always involves getting rid of the heat, not using it. The heat is a problem, not a solution.
    2) It's a ship. In a storm, it moves. That's bad.
    3) Ooh... ventilating a ship with air saturated with salt spray! Why didn't I think of that? Even if they mo
    • by ConanG (699649)
      3) They dehumidify the air before chilling it. The heat exchangers use seawater cooling that require periodic cleaning, but nothing exceedingly difficult. In short, corrosion due to ventilation is not a problem.
  • Port Fees? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:52AM (#21969194)

    Wow. This idea is completely out-of-the-box.

    I have questions:

    1. Why locate off-shore when there is plenty of space on land?

    2. Who is going to pay the port fees? Not including the tow fees necessary to periodically reposition the vessel.

    3. Why take the hit on maintenance? Periodic dry docking, corrosion management, bilge checks...

    4. Why pay additional expenses for a vessel agent? (They are NOT cheap).

    5. What about mooring? evacuations due to hurricanes? environmental impact (ballast water & bunkering)?

    6. Why take the risk associated with being in navigable water (vessel collision, dredging)?

    7. Insurance?

    8. On the subject of decommissioned cargo ships -- Most cargo ships are decommissioned only after they are in such sad shape that the operators fear that metal fatigue may jeopardize the vessel, or the safety systems have deteriorated to the point that the cost of repairs (to make them pass coast guard inspection) are too high. Why not use deep sea barges like Odysea, Crowley TMT, or Land Bridge uses? Less maintenance, and you won't have to hire three tugs to reposition the damn thing.

    Just asking...

    • by gambolt (1146363)
      I'm thinking it might be legal. If it's a foreign registered ship docked in a US port, would the servers be subject to US law to the same degree as if they were on land? What about work visas for employees?

      This would make a lot of sense for developing markets that don't have much infrastructure yet. For the US, it's a bit of a head scratcher for sure.
    • by hcdejong (561314)
      The only reason they do this, is that in some cities it will be cheaper than
      - buying land and building a data center on it OR
      - building a data center outside the city on cheap land and then having to pay for high-speed connectivity to the city
    • by blhack (921171)
      My biggest question is

      where are you going to get the massive bandwidth required to operate an effective data center on a damn dock? And doesn't running the whole thing on diesel seem a little....stupid?

      There are really not ANY benefits to running a data center on a ship that I can think of other than the ability to use pirate lingo.
      • by pragma_x (644215) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:00PM (#21970282) Journal

        There are really not ANY benefits to running a data center on a ship that I can think of other than the ability to use pirate lingo.


        Mister Smith, secure them backup tapes; I won't be havin' me data slidin' about on deck. Mister Taylor, re-run those CAT-5 cables and make it quick. There'll be no tangled rigging, or loose arrrr-J45's on my ship. Mister Martin, ye be throwin' them Cisco routers overboard, and invite their mangy sales crew over for a good plank walkin' - they be too slow for the likes o' me.

        Mister Jones, if it weren't for them lying, theiving scoundrels at the I-arrr-S, I'd have no deal with the likes of ye accountin' folks. Apparently, the lot of 'em don't understand the meanin' of "parlay". But enough of me rambin' - just make sure ye decimal points be just, or I be keelhaulin' the lot of ya.

        And as for the rest of ye lilly-livered scalawags, there'll be no drinkin', boozin', torrent-n' or World o' Warrrrcraft until after businessin' hours.

        Arrr Meetin' be o-journ'd.
  • Datatypes (Score:3, Funny)

    by Dan East (318230) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:53AM (#21969212) Homepage Journal
    Startup Building Floating Data Centers

    That's nice, but is there a demand for data centers that store only one type of number? What if we need to store integers?

    Dan East
  • There are just so many fundamental problems with this concept I don't know where to start. Power is such an easy shot-- where the hell are you going to get enough biodiesel to run a data center of any size for starters. Moving the data center around also would use a whole lot of "less environmentally friendly" bunker oil, and fundamentally the only problem it addresses is a real-estate one.

    Oh, and it doesn't address the real-estate problem very well, because protected berths with access to good fiber are
  • Reminds me about the serverhosting on Sealand [wikipedia.org].

    With countries all over the world putting more and more restrictions and regulations on hosting servers, I can see the benefit of a floating datacenter: in the case of legal/authoritative problems just sail to international waters.

    As other comments note there are major problems to overcome. Reliability will be a lot worse. Satellite connections are painfully slow and expensive, while UMTS/HSDPA/wimax/cables limit your range and provide points-of-failure on land.
  • {{ Insert joke about a float not being large enough to store all of your data, here }}
  • I read the article and completely missed this little nugget:

    Using cargo ships allows for flexibility and the ability to expand based on the availability of ships and port space, rather than real estate.

    This is a really novel concept, but I'm still left scratching my head. Why the hell would you actually want to do this?

    As far as I can tell, this company is banking on the cost of maintaining a whole ship to somehow be less expensive than paying rent on office space for a conventional data center. Are real-

  • by dorpus (636554) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:33PM (#21969838)
    Japanese electronics companies used to have cargo ships with mainframes which performed data processing tasks in international waters near San Francisco. (Back when Japanese labor costs were low, and computers were rare enough that there was benefit to having a mobile computer.)
  • In the abstract, hosting a DC at the port of Lagos Nigeria might not make any sense, but real estate prices in the SF bay area are the most expensive in the nation. A ship has GOT to be cheaper than commercial rents in the area.
  • I suppose that memory leaks won't be the only leaks they'll be worried about.
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:57PM (#21970242)
    This would be a *perfecct* use for the Queen Mary! The old one.

    It weighs about 175 million pounds. Take it out into the open seas where there are 3-foot waves, or actually big enough waves to lift and drop the ship by three feet say every ten seconds. By my Excel calcs, if you use that lift to heave up on a big anchor half the weight of the ship, that's about 30 megawatts of electricity. Plenty enough to power tens of thousands of servers.

    The front boiler and engine room spaces of the QM were cleared out long ago, leaving a huge open space for lots of server racks. All you have to worry about is shipwrecks and hurricanes and the effects of humid, salty and diesely air.

  • This story made me remember of an old story about a company that would rent or built a ship and employ programmers to make them code there, very near US west coast but in international waters to avoid being bound by US work laws.
  • Offshoring? (Score:5, Funny)

    by dlim (928138) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:56PM (#21971106) Journal
    Perhaps they just got a little confused about the offshoring trend...
  • by LarsG (31008) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:15PM (#21974624) Journal
    CERT-advisory on limpet mines.

    New April 1st RFC - floating point transfers over sub-nets.

    The network is obviously pier to pier-based, you need good piering agreements.

    Connection reset by pier.

    The data center is down due to wetware failure.

    Special offer - free salt for all your crypto needs.

    Careful with that firewall, closed ports are bad.

    "Digital Pirates" just acquired a new meaning.

    The Dreaded Backhoe will be replaced by people phishing on the pier and people dropping <A>s

    Sneakernet replaced by flippernet.

    Overclockers rejoice, think of the extreme water-cooling possibilities.

    Forget the Boston Tea Party. The Boston LAN Party will be way cooler.

One of the most overlooked advantages to computers is... If they do foul up, there's no law against whacking them around a little. -- Joe Martin

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