San Francisco Bay barge points to possible Google innovation?

It may seem strange, but a barge floating in the middle of San Francisco Bay is causing quite a stir throughout the information technology community.

Some chief information officers may be scratching their heads, trying to figure out what an enormous boat stationed off of Treasure Island – a former base for the Navy – actually is. What these perplexed IT professionals may not know is that this barge is alleged to be the site of an innovative data storage initiative for Google.

It is not the boat itself that is the revolutionary component, but rather the structure that is being built on top of it. Though Google has yet to confirm anything, experts throughout the IT industry have their fair share of theories when it comes to this mystery construction project.

For some time, no one had a clue as to what the water-born structure was. However, CNET was on the case, digging through a variety of sources – from public permit records to leads on LinkedIn. Ultimately, the news source found that Google is almost certainly the company behind the building project.

While that clears up one aspect of the seafaring structure, there is a significant amount of information about the venture that is still shrouded in secrecy. With so much uncertainty with regards to this construction, there has been plenty of room left for IT professional hypotheses to circulate.

One of the most popular – not to mention probable – theories out there is that Google is developing this barge-born structure as a means of housing more infrastructure.

“It’s not that far fetched,” stated David Cappuccio, a vice president and chief of research at Gartner, according to Computerworld. “You have to be somebody of Google’s size to even consider this.”

Barge structure matches patent plans?
According to the news source, this major software company was issued a patent for a floating data center back in 2009. The design proposed a structure comprised of different cell units, which could be added or removed from the information center platform using cranes. Additionally, this innovative data hardware was intended to be mobile, eventually anchoring in offshore areas where currents could power the infrastructure’s power generators.

Although the San Francisco Bay structure is heavily guarded, and outsiders are unable to have close access to the barge, some say that it is made up of shipping containers. This observation has only further fueled the floating data center speculation.

CNET stated that using standard shipping containers to house infrastructure is not an entirely new concept. Corporations such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Microsoft have already been constructing data centers out of these components. This appears to be, however, the first initiative to make construct one of these centers on the ocean.

IT experts seem to have varying opinions when it comes to the possibility of a Google information storage structure in such unique location. By and large, CIOs appear to be finding  this theory appealing, as a floating data center would prove beneficial.

For starters, tech professionals feel that this prospect could help Google address issues related to temperature controls. Data center equipment is sensitive and prone to overheating, which can lead to system outages.

As a result, having sophisticated precautions in place to lower infrastructure temperatures before they climb to dangerous levels is critical. CNET explained that setting these centers on top of the ocean gives service providers easy and unending access to a cooling source – water. In other words, using the ocean as a mitigating agent in terms of preventing data centers from overheating.

Anticipated outcomes of floating infrastructure
On top of this, CIOs could be happy to hear of Google’s possible barge-based venture, as it will set the software company up for increased data storage capacities. As current technology trends, including cloud computing capabilities and big data analytics, service providers are going to need some room to grow. Without increased information storage capabilities, companies investing in these services would otherwise be out of luck.

Not to mention, with these structures composed of modular containers, updating infrastructure would be effortless for Google. All the company would have to do is take out isolated portions of damaged or outdated technology, replacing just those parts with newer solutions.

While most IT professionals would welcome the idea of an ocean-top data center run by Google, others don’t see this as a viable concept.

“There are a lot of issues here,” Cappuccio said, as cited by Computerworld. “If they were to do this, they’d have to think about fishing areas and international shipping lanes. And what about telecom? They’re not going to use satellites to support the amount of workload they’re talking about. They’d have to lay underwater telecom cable and that doesn’t make them mobile.”

Despite these possible hitches projected by some tech experts, Google has yet to confirm its data center plans, let alone explain how it hopes to handle such obstacles. For this reason, it is probably best that IT professionals just wait it out and see what surprise innovations the corporation may unveil further on down the road.

Marie Larsen
Marie is a writer for CIOs.com. She has an educational background in languages and literature. She covers IT trends and executive technology management topics for the company.