Google On The High Seas

from the yo-ho-ho-an'-a-barrel-o'-patents dept

It looks like Google has had enough of the taxes, rules, and regulations associated with hosting its data in various countries around the world. Its solution? Floating data centers anchored beyond national boundaries. The idea seems pretty ridiculous on its face. The costs associated with maintaining a fleet of barges, in addition to the challenges that would arise regarding server maintenance, power requirements (wave power? really?), and security (protection from real pirates), make the effectiveness of such a solution highly questionable. To make this story even more ridiculous, Google has filed for a patent on the idea, presumably so that it can reap the huge rewards when everyone else realizes that hosting data at sea is the way to go. To be fair, this is likely just a defensive patent filing -- given Google's past patent activities. But what does it say about the patent system when a company has to waste the resources of the patent office, on an idea that's probably never intended to be implemented, with the possible effect of preventing someone else from innovating in a related area? And, even though the idea as proposed may be silly, what if someone else could make something similar work? Do we want a single company to have the exclusive right to attempt something like this? The patent system is supposed to promote progress, not be an anchor dragging it down.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    sandy beaches, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 5:19pm

    Just a hunch

    Why not just buy an island ?
    Should be cheaper and must easier to get employees to stay there

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Buzz, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 5:34pm

    Wow

    I bet Microsoft wishes they thought of this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Ken McNamara, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 5:35pm

    Whose Navy will protect them?

    They seem to take for granted that the US Navy will protect them on the high seas.

    Perhaps they'll manage to honor the US Navy on Memorial Day -- but probably not, they probably think if they're nice to everyone, no one will bother them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    reed, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 5:36pm

    My server is wet!

    You must be seriously jealous you didn't think of dropping your server in the drink first.

    I applaud the effort though, it is amazing what you have to do to get freedom in our society.

    Google's next mission, a server on Mars! To infinity and beyond!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    My Patent, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 5:38pm

    Re: My server is wet!

    Google's next mission, a server on Mars! To infinity and beyond!

    Wait a sec, why not have a server in orbit. I thought of it first !

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    ThePeopleGeek, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 5:40pm

    Maybe they could lease some space from The Piratebay.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Prior Art, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 5:48pm

    I say the idea is not new or innovative. There is prior art because the PirateBay was considering this several years ago when they were first raided.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Dino, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 5:52pm

    Patents? We don't need no stinking Patents!!

    I think it's funny that Google patented the idea, but they're planning on utilizing the idea in international waters to get away from regulation. If someone else DID want to copy the idea, whats going to stop them? They're in international waters! Away from regulation!

    To Google:
    Nyah Nyah! We took your idea!

    From: The Copycat-ers

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 5:53pm

    Re: Just a hunch

    Why not just buy an island ?
    There are no islands not already claimed by some country and by international law any newly formed islands will be assigned to the nearest existing country.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Bryan Price, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:10pm

    Connectivity?

    I'm curious, what are they doing, tapping into the international fiber routes between countries for connectivity? Their own fiber connecting to mainland? Hurricane/blizzard/thunderstorms/anchor-breaking/Exxon Valdeez tanker type of events?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Pangolin (profile), Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:14pm

    Maybe not so strange.....

    Don't oil platforms have electricity? Internet connectivity? Lease space on an offshore oil platform!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    wasnt me!, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:20pm

    Re: Just a hunch

    that was what i was about to say.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    wasnt me!, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:23pm

    Re: Connectivity?

    they can connect to a satellite all they need is a dish for Internet access.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    teknosapien, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:32pm

    Preparing for the eventual

    Perhaps they are preparing for when the polar caps melt ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:35pm

    I got a better idea for Google

    Place your data center on the Moon !!!
    Hey, I am not even going to patent it
    On the Moon Google founder punks can employ some aliens which posess superior intelligence and don't need to breath,
    eat, drink or have sex
    Plus no more H1B visa scandals
    Great idea !!!

    But serioslly, may the good storm destroy those Google IT slavery barges

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    bookdragoness, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:42pm

    Is this really going to be "preventing someone else from innovating in a related area" or is it more to protect themselves from getting sued if they do implement it? It seems all too common these days to have to file these sorts of lawsuit-insurance patents.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Monk, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:48pm

    Dont you Know abot SeaLand?

    They could buy SeaLand, for only U$ 1bi.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Havok, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:48pm

    Re: I got a better idea for Google

    Hey that's sweet! Perhaps I can sell my cubic meter of Moon that I bought to them... Century21 eat your heart out. Maybe it'll be worth enough to buy Merill Lynch for myself!

    xD

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Jake, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 7:40pm

    I really can't see this getting beyond a feasibility study or two; I can see them siting a few converted barges in major cities with more harbour space than reasonably-priced real estate, but site it more than a few thousand yards off the coast and the expenses start piling up; wave turbines are pretty effective in open ocean, but laying and maintaining a fibre-optic cable that far would not be cheap. Throw in resupply for whoever Google find to man this thing and the expenses are going to pile up very fast. And good luck insuring one in the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 7:52pm

    Re: Dont you Know abot SeaLand?

    Great Britian claims SeaLand as their territory.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 7:54pm

    Re: Re: Dont you Know abot SeaLand?

    Oops, Great Britain (typo).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    artful007, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 8:04pm

    bribery is easier

    what happen to bribing the local goverments?, sure seems to be an easier way to avoid paying taxes and compling with rules. That is the driving issue, I think we should invade those pesky countries. How dare them try to infringe on Google's right to make a profit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    wasnt me!, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 8:08pm

    Re: Re: Dont you Know abot SeaLand?

    U.K. courts ruled that the platform—located six miles (ten kilometers) off the eastern English county of Suffolk (United Kingdom map)—was outside British jurisdiction. At the time, the border of U.K. territorial waters was set at three miles (five kilometers) from the coast.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Blaise Alleyne (profile), Sep 15th, 2008 @ 9:46pm

    Re: Re: My server is wet!

    I'll race you to the patent office!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Carl, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 10:06pm

    outside of national boundries

    OK, so they can patent the idea to get outside of the law by being outside of any national boundary. But wouldn't the same rules apply for those who wanted to break the patent? What nation can protect the patent if someone else were to build barges and float some servers on it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Energy, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 10:59pm

    I bet this is more about energy than anything else. Besides the human element, electricity, much of which is due to cooling, is one of their biggest costs. There was a story about either Google or MS dropping servers down into a cave to keep them cool. This could be similar...drop them down into the water where the temperature and natural cooling system (waves) would fix the cooling problem. Then with wave energy, they could run the servers..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Lucretious, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 1:39am

    once again, this is caused by the "contributions to society" made by that wonderful, noble professional....the Lawyer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    mike allen, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 1:48am

    not new idea

    The idea of putting things at sea to avoid government or other intervention / snooping is not new. Many radio stations did it in the 60s to 80s in Europe. MMMM RIAA and others skaming every penny off internet radio. excuse me. Google its nothing new and you cant patent it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    AJ, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 4:31am

    Don't forget...

    ...what will they do about security? They'd have to finance their own navy to protect them from attack by pirates or people with a grudge against Google. Being in international waters and not paying taxes (which support the military and police), they'd have to do something to protect that large investment. Sinking a barge or capturing it would be a pretty big loss for them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Enrico Suarve, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 5:02am

    Re: Don't forget...

    They'd have to form a Google Navy

    I always quite fancied joining the navy but the idea of getting involved in dumbassed wars started for political reasons

    I'm sure a Google Navy wouldn't do any actual invading (fingers crossed), and the uniforms are bound to be amazing - I'm picturing sergeant Peppers but with more O's

    Google Boys are you listening? Where do I sign up?

    Fighting Pirates with logic bombs, wrestling giant squid with spagetti - back in time for tea and youTube of the day - ooh arrr!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    Ferin (profile), Sep 16th, 2008 @ 5:08am

    Bah!

    All your arguements fail to persuade me, in light of one inescabable fact. This idea will provide the perfect oppurtunity to see real life reenactments of the corporate take over scene from the beginning of "Meaning of Life." And that, sir, is worth every penny that might be required to see this idea become realized.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 6:06am

    What good would a patent do?

    Hmm, I thought one of the listed benefits would be that the barges would be in international waters, outside the jurisdiction of any government. How, then, would a patent do them any good?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 6:30am

    They should have checked

    I already have a patent on using barges for stuff.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    check mate, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 7:04am

    google google

    I just patened the URLs / domain names & intellectual property rights for my new online products "Google Moon" & "Google Mars".

    Anybody have a few cheap 3D cameras, I need to get started on this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    *angry dude, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 7:05am

    Re: I got a better idea for Google

    [There we go! Got that angry rant script working again! Just needed a little code whacking.]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Bryan Price, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 7:34am

    Re: Re: Connectivity?

    Are T1 speeds going to quench the thirst of datacenters that size? I'm not even worrying about latency.

    Yeah, an oil platform probably has connectivity, but certainly not suitable for a datacenter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 7:40am

    One can only wonder how this article would have read had the subject of the article been investigated before publication. See below:

    http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fne tahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=2&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PG01&s1=google.AS.&am p;OS=AN/google&RS=AN/google

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    Esahc (profile), Sep 16th, 2008 @ 7:41am

    Re: Maybe not so strange.....

    It's been done and Google will probable opt for this over floating barges.

    http://www.sealandgov.com/

    http://www.sealandgov.org/history.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    robster, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 10:19am

    google is waiting...

    to hire Kevin Costner as new CEO for when Waterworld becomes a reality

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Kamu, Sep 20th, 2008 @ 11:56am

    The point to using floating barges is using sea water to cool the computers, which is a huge draw on power.

    I don't understand the really negative tone from the article.

    "But what does it say about the patent system when a company has to waste the resources of the patent office, on an idea that's probably never intended to be implemented, with the possible effect of preventing someone else from innovating in a related area?"

    Heaven forbid them wasting PO resources. They could be approving extremely vague patents with those resources!

    Also, what more 'innovating' could be done in this area? Google has innovated and this is the outcome.

    "And, even though the idea as proposed may be silly, what if someone else could make something similar work? Do we want a single company to have the exclusive right to attempt something like this?"

    How is it silly? Have you even done the slightest bit of research? Where is your calculations to prove that it is not feasible to power a datacentre on wave power? Keeping in mind the huge savings of using seawater as cooling.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    Anonymous Coward (profile), Sep 22nd, 2008 @ 11:04am

    Kamu,

    The point to using floating barges is using sea water to cool the computers, which is a huge draw on power.

    As I read it, they would use wave *power* to cool and power the servers. They couldn't just throw sea water over the servers -- the idea would be to use wave energy to power the cooling systems (similar to those in current land-based data centers) as well as the servers themselves. It seems that floating data centers would present all of the challenges of their dry-land counterparts, plus a bunch of new challenges. So you don't get to just dump the costs of cooling into the sea.

    Heaven forbid them wasting PO resources.

    I get your point about wasting PO resources -- wouldn't it be nice to keep them occupied with harmless nonsense all the time? But the problem is that the incredible growth in patent filings, as everyone seeks to patent anything and everything, has only led to more bad patents being granted, and more bloating of government. And wasting PO resources means wasting taxpayer money.

    Also, what more 'innovating' could be done in this area? Google has innovated and this is the outcome.

    What more innovating could be done? Who's to say? That's the point. If the PO grants such a patent to Google, we may never find out. Do you honestly believe that Google's ideas here are the final outcome of innovation in this area?

    How is it silly? Have you even done the slightest bit of research? Where is your calculations to prove that it is not feasible to power a datacentre on wave power? Keeping in mind the huge savings of using seawater as cooling.

    I never said it's not feasible to power a data center on wave power. But this idea is not as simple as that. Google is talking about anchoring data centers many miles off shore, in what is often a pretty volatile environment. So, while it may be possible -- maybe even relatively easy -- to harness the power of waves to run the servers and the cooling systems, additional costs associated with protecting the electronic equipment from the corrosive sea water, preventing damage due to movement (these are floating barges), insurance, security, efficient, reliable communications technology and so on, do make this idea appear pretty far-fetched, at this point. I'm skeptical that there are "huge savings" to be realized.

    But perhaps more innovation could address many of these issues.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This