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Seagoing Servers Hit the Rocks

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the flotsam-is-ones-jetsam-is-zeros dept.

Data Storage 56

1sockchuck writes "A plan to build data centers on ships is now defunct. Startup IDS, whose ambitions to convert cargo ships into server farms prompted debate on Slashdot in 2008 and 2010, is in bankruptcy. Google filed a patent for a water-based data center, but it's not clear that the company ever took the concept seriously, and has even spoofed the idea."

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Joke of the day (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40555319)

Just think - these true believers are the people you share your country with!
http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/creation-museum-evolves-hoping-add-life-size-ark-170347907.html [yahoo.com]

CIRCUS... AFRO! POLKA DOT POLKA DOT AFRO! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40557219)

arrrrr, prepare to be boarded or face my furry

Re:CIRCUS... AFRO! POLKA DOT POLKA DOT AFRO! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40558275)

anything but those goddamn furries!

Sounds like a reputable company. (5, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555347)

Customer: So where are your servers located...
Company: International Waters... Barge 12.

upload? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40555353)

how exactly can you have large bandwidth with no cables?

Re:upload? (5, Funny)

PaddyM (45763) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555381)

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a seaworthy station wagon filled with hard drives.

Re:upload? (1)

Resol (950137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40556183)

Ha! That brings back great memories of a 1986 Comp. Sci. class comparing 1200 baud modems and a pick-up truck filled with mag tapes for transferring data between Saskatoon and Calgary in Canada. Well done!

Re:upload? (5, Interesting)

Tofof (199751) | more than 2 years ago | (#40556329)

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.

The last time I saw that line, I decided to actually look into it.

In the 1970s, by which time the phrase was already in use [wikipedia.org] , a typical station wagon would be something like an AMC Rebel [wikipedia.org] . According to stats from Wikipedia, the Rebel has a cargo capacity of 91 cubic feet. For tape, the IBM 10.5" reel [wikipedia.org] was the "defacto standard" from the 1950s "through the late 1980s". Assume 10.5"x10.5"x.5" i.e. 55.1 cubic-inch rectangular prisms as the tightest possible packing (which is optimistic, given that the tape itself is .5" not including the reels themselves, but the saying urges us to avoid undersetimation) 9-track tapes debuted in 1964, with densities of 800, 1600, or 6250 cpi corresponding to between 5 to 140 megabytes per standard 2400' tape. This gives us a capacity, then, of 2854 tapes per station wagon. At highest density (again, the phrase does urge not to underestimate) this corresponds to a whopping, in the mid-1970s at least, 390 gigabytes. I consider a trip from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to Norfolk, Virginia as a reasonable cross-country journey with computing-appropriate endpoints and a 55 mph 1970s speed limit. This is roughly 850 miles, managable in 15.5 hours with very quick stops for gas.
This finally corresponds to a mid-1970s bandwidth of 390 gigabytes per 15.5 hours, or in more familiar units, 57 mbps (yes, bits not Bytes, as is typical for bandwidth units).

The modern version would probably need to substitute an SUV for the station wagon. A 2012 Ford Explorer is listed at 81 cubic feet. Using common modern tapes, like jb/jx tapes, you could hold ~7000. In gen4 mode, these tapes hold 1.6 TB (yes, 4TB tapes exist but seem too extraordinary for this usage). At typical cross-country speed of 68 mph, the same trip would be 13 hours, padded by the same half-hour for gas the previous figure was.
The modern version, then, works out to some 11 petabytes per 13 hours, or something like 1900 gbps. This works out to a full terabyte transferred every 4.2 seconds.

Do not underestimate, indeed!

Re:upload? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40557001)

Don't underestimate, fine, but you probably should account for the time to transfer the data from disk to tape and load all of the tapes into the SUV, and reverse the process upon reaching the destination.

Re:upload? (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#40557391)

Don't underestimate, fine, but you probably should account for the time to transfer the data from disk to tape

WTF are you talking about? The majority of the systems in question in the 1970s read records from tape, processed them, and wrote them to tape. The data never touched disk. The disk was reserved for the program image and perhaps scratchpad or virtual memory (if you had a fancy VM-capable system).

You're not backing up data for transfer, you're transferring the only copy! Put that in your "copyright violation isn't theft" pipe and smoke it!

load all of the tapes into the SUV,

That's a consideration, I suppose. I like to think the image intended in the original joke is simply instantaneous throughput ("wire speed", if you will) of a 4000-pound vehicle full of ones and zeros hurtling down the freeway at (or over) the highway speed limit.

Yup. A dumptruck full of data on the highway is definitely a very large packet. Humongous MTU. Of course, if the packet is lost [wikipedia.org] , your retransmit time will be epically horrible.

Re:upload? (1)

dontclapthrowmoney (1534613) | more than 2 years ago | (#40558425)

Don't underestimate, fine, but you probably should account for the time to transfer the data from disk to tape

WTF are you talking about? The majority of the systems in question in the 1970s read records from tape, processed them, and wrote them to tape. The data never touched disk.

Don't underestimate, fine, but you probably should account for the time to transfer the data from disk to tape and load all of the tapes into the SUV

If he's talking about the modern day equivalent, then it's extremely unlikely that his system stores its data on the tapes. The data would need to be moved off the tape and onto disk to be useful so the time taken to do that should be added to the comparison.

A large SATA disk will store a similar(ish) amount of data to a tape. We're talking about data transfer not long term storage requirement so for the purposes of the thought exercise it would be easier to use large SATA disks, or maybe SD cards.

I am sure someone with no time on their hands has worked out the relative bandwidth of a station wagon full of SATA disks versus a guy with a suitcase full of miniSD cards catching a plane back/forward.

Re:upload? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40566205)

Don't underestimate, fine, but you probably should account for the time to transfer the data from disk to tape

WTF are you talking about? The majority of the systems in question in the 1970s read records from tape, processed them, and wrote them to tape. The data never touched disk.

Don't underestimate, fine, but you probably should account for the time to transfer the data from disk to tape and load all of the tapes into the SUV

If he's talking about the modern day equivalent, then it's extremely unlikely that his system stores its data on the tapes. The data would need to be moved off the tape and onto disk to be useful so the time taken to do that should be added to the comparison.

A large SATA disk will store a similar(ish) amount of data to a tape. We're talking about data transfer not long term storage requirement so for the purposes of the thought exercise it would be easier to use large SATA disks, or maybe SD cards.

I am sure someone with no time on their hands has worked out the relative bandwidth of a station wagon full of SATA disks versus a guy with a suitcase full of miniSD cards catching a plane back/forward.

with 32 Gig Micro SD cards you could put 12,547,626.2 terabytes in a Ford Explorer

Re:upload? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40558787)

Breaker break 1-9, we gotta bandwidth cap comin' up 'round mile marker 36

Re:upload? (1)

RespekMyAthorati (798091) | more than 2 years ago | (#40566481)

I once calculated that a freight train, consisting of standard boxcars stuffed to the roof with terrabyte hard drives, and travelling at 100 km/hr, would have an average data rate of around 2000 terrabytes per second.

Ping time: around two weeks.

Re:upload? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40555383)

Satellite bandwidth is huge, you just have really high latency.

Re:upload? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40555385)

Big pigeons

Re:upload? (4, Funny)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555865)

I would think A Flock of Seagulls could help with Telecommunication,
but they do have a tendency to run...

Re:upload? (1)

eternaldoctorwho (2563923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40556333)

And they run so very far away, I have heard....

Re:upload? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40556361)

... so far away.

Did you know Flock of Seagulls has a track called Telecommunication when you wrote that?

Re:upload? (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 2 years ago | (#40572611)

Well, that or I picked a random polysyllabic word on which to practice my capitalization

Re:upload? (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555431)

You use fiber instead of cables ;-)

be sure to tip your waitress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40557349)

I thought one used fiber when they wanted to increase their download rate.

Re:upload? (2)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555441)

how exactly can you have large bandwidth with no cables?

Sharks! With lasers strapped to their heads, and laser detectors as well!

Re:upload? (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#40556041)

You can get satellite or even point to point microwave connections in some cases that are extremely high bandwidth. It's the horrible response time that's the problem. I've seen connections that will send 10 megabits through at around a 700ms round trip delay. Ugh.

Re:upload? (4, Funny)

NalosLayor (958307) | more than 2 years ago | (#40556085)

I think this is an avenue for research. Perhaps, some day, someone will devise some sort of "under-sea" or possibly "sub-marine" waterproof telegraphic cable in order to electrgraphically connect two stationary points across a body of open water. I'd imagine you'd have to customize some sort of cable-laying vessel as well. Once this breakthough is achieved, we'll be able to transmit data from a ship to shore.

Re:upload? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40556401)

The underwater part is solved. Pricy still, but solved. The problem is getting the cable up to the surface in the absence of a nice steady slopeing shore, in a way that doesn't overly stress it even during the worst storms.

First what? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40555359)

Hahahahahaha

Re:First what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40556483)

Yes. That was funny.
heh

Too bad (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555473)

It would have eliminated cooling costs (just pull in cold water from under the boat) without the horrendous costs of coastal land anywhere near civilization.

Re:Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40555495)

Well right, you just have the horrendous costs of running cables to shore plus maintenance from all the saltwater... plus you know, storms and stuff

Re:Too bad (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555521)

Well right, you just have the horrendous costs of running cables to shore plus maintenance from all the saltwater... plus you know, storms and stuff

need for oil refills too. and the small matter of data connections.

Re:Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40555693)

You can rent a shallow-water oil rig for under $80,000/day - put it close enough to tie into the undersea pipelines and don't worry about oil refills. And if you're planning on renting space at $2.4M/month, you probably consider the cost of running a few miles of undersea fiber a pittance. Heck, even if you're thinking of renting a container ship at $200k/month, a few miles of undersea fiber if probably nothing.

Re:Too bad (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#40558415)

Drill a well and run the ship on gas that would otherwise be flared.

Re:Too bad (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555715)

Don't forget that anything in international waters that isn't under a country's flag is fair salvage for anyone who comes up to it. Even if it under a flag, the rule of the sea is often might makes right, so a data center on a barge might just get the flag of a white star on a blue background because the guys on the Zodiac boats with the AK-47s say so.

Re:Too bad (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#40558449)

Zodiac boats are very unstable firing platforms. Things 'said' back to such boats is generally much better aimed. Like you said 'might makes right', but you assume ships occupants would be foolish enough to follow stupid UN rules regarding armaments.

Re:Too bad (1)

RespekMyAthorati (798091) | more than 2 years ago | (#40566529)

Yaarh! Tis my data center now, laddies.

Re:Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40555727)

well, think perhaps maybe 20 miles offshore (international waters)... could have a fiber wire that long (with backup satellite links)---perhaps tethered to (or built on) a decommissioned nuclear sub or carrier [perhaps russia has an old one for sale for a few hundred million?]. Could be a pretty neat idea... perhaps a data heaven free from any international pressures.

#1 danger, Greenpeace (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555851)

They'll complain about how you're warming the ocean and send divers down to plug your cooling vents.

Re:Too bad (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 2 years ago | (#40556081)

(just pull in cold water from under the boat)

How cold is the water?

Re:Too bad (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40556179)

Dunno but once you get about 10ft. down it's quite chilly, go deep enough and you can get near-freezing water even in the tropics.

Re:Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40557039)

water is most dense at ~4C so that a good guess at depth

They are where they wanted to be. (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555513)

That is, in deep water.

Re:They are where they wanted to be. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40556135)

lol, i hate you

Re:They are where they wanted to be. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40556429)

lol, or vagina

Better Idea (3, Funny)

ab_iron (622116) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555551)

I think caves in Sultanate of Kinakuta would be a much better idea.

Power plants yes, data centers no. (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555707)

There's been some success with floating power plants. [wallermarine.com] But those are built for developing countries, and they're installed along a shore. It's a way to move a power plant from where it was built to a destination location where construction is difficult. Building a power plant in a shipyard is convenient. A shipyard already has the equipment for moving and assembling very heavy components, and people who know how to use it.

None of this applies to a data center.

Re:Power plants yes, data centers no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40556227)

Except the power plant.

Next: Datacenters in Space (2)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555773)

After the billionaires mine asteroids for gold, they are going to stick giant datacenters in them. All this happens when Scotty gets the transporter back online.

Good thing though (3, Funny)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#40555985)

It's a good thing the plan didn't go through because I guarantee the RIAA and MPAA would have build stealth submarines and sunk it. You can do pretty much anything in international waters lol.

Re:Good thing though (1)

iamgnat (1015755) | more than 2 years ago | (#40556229)

You appear to be operating under the incorrect impression that they care about PR being good or bad or the attention span to build an armed sub. They'd simply pay off enough congress critters to send the Navy out to sink them and then use mass media to tell the public how good of a thing our boys in white did to help stem the tide of these horrible sea pirates.

Re:Good thing though (4, Interesting)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40556535)

History repeats: Offshore pirate radio used to be very big in the UK. The government eventually responded by passing a law saying that any unlicensed transmission that could be recieved in the UK was illegal, even if the transmitter was in international water and regardless of the registered nationality of the transmitting ship. This was of rather dubious legality, but no other country wished to make a fuss over something so small as a legal nitpicking when they were dealing with similar issues themselves. It did indeed come down to the government sending armed attack squads to board transmitter ships and arrest the operators. So it's happene before, don't think it wouldn't happen again.

Amusingly, both the BBC (World Service) and US government (Voice of America) deliberatly broadcast unlicensed into countries where the government deems them to be operating illegally. North Korea, places like that where the only allowed media is the state propaganda service. Proving that one again, in international law, might does make right.

LOL (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40557555)

prompted debate on Slashdot in 2008 and 2010/quote HAH! Even the most mundane of topics prompt debate on Slashdot. I'm 100% certain if there was a post on here about the sky being blue, a debate would follow in the comments. There was so little for the poster to say about this subject that they felt the need to include a worthless fluff sentence.

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40570387)

The sky is not blue, it only appears that way.

unoriginal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40564679)

They shouldnt get the patent. This was done years ago... I believe it was a DC that took over an old WW2 anti-aircraft platform.

High bandwidth vacuum on Wall Street (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40565025)

As recently as the late 80s, data was being transmitted on Wall Street in a large pneumatic tube container stuffed with floppy disks.

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