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Google Patents Shipping-Container Data Centers

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the pick-it-up-and-move-it-out dept.

Patents 207

theodp writes "Two years ago, Robert X. Cringely wrote that Google was experimenting with portable data centers built in standard shipping containers. The idea, Cringely explained, wasn't new and wasn't even Google's, backing up his claim with a link to an Internet-Archive-in-a-Shipping-Container presentation (PDF, dated 11-8-2003) that was reportedly pitched to Larry Page. Google filed for a patent on essentially the same concept on 12-30-2003. And on Tuesday, the USPTO issued the search giant a patent for Modular Data Centers housed in shipping containers, which Google curiously notes facilitate 'rapid and easy relocation to another site depending on changing economic factors'. That's a statement that may make those tax-abating NC officials a tad uneasy."

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Oops! (5, Interesting)

Cap'nPedro (987782) | about 7 years ago | (#20913369)

This doesn't look good for Sun's Blackbox [sun.com] project.

Re:Oops! (1)

hb253 (764272) | about 7 years ago | (#20913427)

Indeed, I read about Sun's project in a Scientific American article a few months back.

Re:Oops! (2, Interesting)

locokamil (850008) | about 7 years ago | (#20913563)

I'm no expert on patent law, so be gentle.

Doesn't the existence of Blackbox imply prior art for Google's patent?

Re:Oops! (1)

Cap'nPedro (987782) | about 7 years ago | (#20913601)

Not if Google proves that they invented their concept before Sun did (they did file it in 2003, after all).

Re:Oops! (1)

mosch (204) | about 7 years ago | (#20914017)

I'm pretty sure that Sun was working on the data center in a box before Larry Page met Sergey Brin, let alone before they founded a company and patented computers in containers.

(Seriously, I think it was 1992 or so.)

Re:Oops! (2, Funny)

corsec67 (627446) | about 7 years ago | (#20913631)

It depends on when Sun started doing the Blackbox project, and the exact wording of the patent.
If Sun started in, say, 2000 (I don't know when they did start) then yes, it could be prior art depending on what the patent covers exactly.
But, if the patent covers something a bit more specific than "computers hooked up in a shipping crate" then it is possible that black box doesn't infringe on this patent, and isn't prior art.

(IANAL, so copious amounts of sodium chloride recommended with this post.)

Re:Oops! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914161)

copious amounts of sodium chloride recommended with this post

I bet you got up from your cubicle and rubbed one out in the bathroom after thinking up that "gem".

"Ohhhh now the geeks will finally accept me as one of their own!" corsec67 murmured as his closed fist pumped spastically up and down his fat sysadmin shaft. A rancid gobbet of semen blasted him in the eye, causing temporary blindness and insanity.

"Argh argh! I am a fucking pirate because it's COOL TO BE A PIRATE! That's what it says on Slashdot!" he screamed as he windmilled out of the bathroom. His coworkers watched the display in abject terror, certain that the morbidly obese sufferer of Asperger syndrome had finally snapped and was about to kill them all.

Re:Oops! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914647)

How is that a troll? You "mods" are fucking idiot losers who probably saw too much truth in that post.

Re:Oops! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914809)

Well, looking at google's claims it seems to be more to do with the particular arrangement of the cooling system rather than the act of putting a data center in a box. In fact the pdf referred to in the summary is even cited. So, the examiner was aware of it and considered the application to be inventive over it.

Re:Oops! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20913593)

I wouldn't claim to possess the insight -- and, I daresay, genius -- required to imagine putting computers in a shipping container.

Nonetheless, I can humbly state that I'm something of an inventor myself. For the past several years, I've been developing a concept which involves assembling computers in 4-foot by 6-foot containers. I know, it sounds incredible, but it is actually possible (despite the intuitive difficulty).

I'm looking to monetize the idea, so if you're interested please contact me about patent licensing and such.

Dr. Hansel Hanselsonson, PhD
hanselsonson@ingenious-inventions-seriously.com

Re:Oops! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20913851)

I neglected to mention the third dimension of the containers, which is 4.3881 feet.

Yes, this number may seem obvious in retrospect -- and I'm sure all the patent critics will be quick to claim my patents don't stand up to the obviousness test -- but I assure you it took some serious effort to invent in the first place. The evidence is all around you; where else have you ever seen a 4' x 6' x 4.3881' container holding computers? I rest my case.

Dr. Hansel Hanselsonson, PhD

Re:Oops! (1)

Kingrames (858416) | about 7 years ago | (#20914353)

copied and pasted from wikipedia:

Robert X. Cringely writing about Google-Mart on November 17th, 2005: "There, in a secret area off-limits even to regular GoogleFolk, is a shipping container. But it isn't just any shipping container. This shipping container is a prototype data center. [..] Didn't Sun recently establish some kind of partnership with Google?"

Re:Oops! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914693)

I smell evil.

The bad thing about Sun's blackbox... (1)

Franklin Brauner (1034220) | about 7 years ago | (#20914909)

...is that it's a BLACK box. Why on earth would you paint your container black, the most heat abosorbing color, when it contains heat producing, air sucking, computer & power components that prefer the cool. I painted my container with white Roofcoat, a Nasa developed product, that kicks back a good 75% of solar radiation. I guess Whitebox doesn't sound as cool as Blackbox.

Sun Blackbox? (4, Insightful)

toby (759) | about 7 years ago | (#20913373)

That's not going to make Sun very [sun.com] happy. [sun.com]

Re:Sun Blackbox? (1)

mosch (204) | about 7 years ago | (#20913909)

I doubt this patent will be enforced in any meaningful way. The Sun Blackbox program you linked to was started about 15 years ago, if my memory serves correctly.

Maybe some minor aspect will get through, but "data center in a box" is old news.

Evil (4, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 7 years ago | (#20913429)

I know this popped into lots of peoples' minds, but...

Could someone please remind me how patenting something obvious is not evil?

Basically it reduces the freedom of all law-abiding citizens to do something that's fairly obvious.

Re:Evil (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20913505)

I know this popped into lots of peoples' minds, but...

Why don't you read the patents and then comment on what they really cover instead of trying to be the first to make what even you realize is the most banal comment possible?

Re:Evil (4, Insightful)

XenoPhage (242134) | about 7 years ago | (#20913515)

Patenting protects their investment. That said, just because you hold a patent doesn't obligate you to use it in an evil way. In fact, many people patent things merely to ensure that no one else patents the idea and uses the patent to extort money.

Not everyone is evil. That said, how evil Google themselves are remains to be seen. I'm kind of on the fence at this point...

Re:Evil (1)

Vancorps (746090) | about 7 years ago | (#20914239)

Except that you're not supposed to be allowed to patent obvious things. We buy road cases from Quantum Scientific which are shocked mounted and water proof. I have a 30TB SAN, 12 servers, routing and switching equipment, and battery backup power for about an hour in our road cases. That's on top of the 100 or so cameras we bring with us and all the phones we have specialized containers for shipping. Perhaps we should declare prior art? Except for the fact that the military does this all the time and so do AV guys traveling with concerts.

They COULD publish instead of patenting. (5, Insightful)

OmniGeek (72743) | about 7 years ago | (#20914273)

If Google wanted to keep from being attacked by another party for using this idea, they could simply (and cheaply!) publish an article describing every facet of the idea the patent application covers (which, after all, is what happens when you file a patent application; when the patent is granted, the idea is published).

Publication of the idea makes it unpatentable "prior art;" once published, the idea can never be patented by anyone. So, if Google's intent were strictly defensive, to prevent someone else from patenting the idea and using it against them, publication would suffice. Thus, the idea that they are "merely protecting themselves" is a bit less persuasive. Of course, there are other reasons for patenting something; looks good on the resume, provides ammunition for cross-licensing battles, and so on, but most of them involve "offense" rather than "defense."

This is not to say that Google has evil intent, just to point out that preemptively patenting something isn't the only way to avoid patent exposure.

Re:They COULD publish instead of patenting. (1)

ivan256 (17499) | about 7 years ago | (#20914649)

If Google wanted to keep from being attacked by another party for using this idea, they could simply (and cheaply!) publish an article describing every facet of the idea the patent application covers (which, after all, is what happens when you file a patent application; when the patent is granted, the idea is published).


That's a fine theory, assuming that the patent office stops granting patents (like this one) with previously published prior art.

In reality, publishing only gives you some ground to stand on while fighting somebody else's patent on your idea down the road. Really, publishing through a patent you never enforce is probably cheaper in the long run.

Re:They COULD publish instead of patenting. (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | about 7 years ago | (#20914733)

If Google wanted to keep from being attacked by another party for using this idea, they could simply (and cheaply!) publish an article describing every facet of the idea the patent application covers (which, after all, is what happens when you file a patent application; when the patent is granted, the idea is published).
Didn't somebody publish exactly that kind of paper a month before Google filed for this patent? I'd say the prior art method is very weak these days, given the general incompetence of the patent office.

Re:They COULD publish instead of patenting. (4, Insightful)

someone1234 (830754) | about 7 years ago | (#20914953)

But... Wasn't this published before? Apparently the fact it was published before didn't deter Google or the USPTO to agree on the patent.
I think it is safer to have a patent which you don't intend to use than a mere publication which might be ignored.

Re:Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20913521)

/sarcasm
It's not evil because it protects the freedom of the law-buying *cough* law-abiding corporations to do something *patently* obvious without getting sued into oblivion by an evil patent troll corporation.

Consumers don't innovate, so they don't need the freedom to do obvious things.

Re:Evil (3, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | about 7 years ago | (#20913737)

Most companies, especially software ones, take patents as a defensive measure. Nothing is worse than doing something conceptually simple and then getting sued into the ground by someone who bothered to patent it. Owning obvious patents is the only real solution (at this point in time, until laws change), and in fact may be the least evil way to act. Owning a swathe of obvious patents that the USPTO refuses to overturn, and not enforcing it with suits, is probably protecting all of us.

Defensive patents (2, Interesting)

mike449 (238450) | about 7 years ago | (#20914843)

Defensive patents are not used to protect the patented idea. They are usually used as a weapon when the company is sued by a competitor for something completely different. This tactics doesn't work against patent trolls, but works very well against competitors.
No computer company can touch IBM because of fear of their patents. I think Google is trying to achieve the same status.

Re:Evil (2, Interesting)

Scrameustache (459504) | about 7 years ago | (#20913853)

Could someone please remind me how patenting something obvious is not evil?
When you patent it but allow anyone to use it free of charge, preventing someone else from patenting it and restricting its use.

I have no idea if that is what's going on, but that answer your question about "how" :)

Re:Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914055)

Its because this patent doesn't cover every possible implementation of turning shipping containers into data centers. It patents their method. If you want to make your own, just don't copy theirs.

Give the patent to the people (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914345)

Google could always just grant the patent to the public domain. Other companies have done similar things with obvious patents. I consider such actions to be the proactive opposite of evil.

Re:Give the patent to the people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914397)

Could, but won't.

Re:Evil (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 7 years ago | (#20914669)

Filing a patent is about the best way possible of establishing prior art. No matter how inept the patent office is, the one place the are guaranteed to check for prior art is in their own system. If you have something you think is obvious, but other people might consider non-obvious, then it can be a lot cheaper to file a patent and then let it lapse in a year or so than to let someone else get the patent and sue you later.

Of course, if they start firing off lawsuits against anyone who puts a computer in a box, then they would move into the 'evil' category. A lot of patents like this are never meant to be enforced (and might well not stand up if they tried), they are just there so that the company can prevent anyone else patenting the same idea.

"Don't Be Evil"... BWAHAHAHA!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914769)

What I'm personally wondering is how patenting someone else's idea is supposed to be "not evil".

Someone parrots a phony mantra, and all the nerds get a man-crush on them. But that's not surprising: Slashtards go apeshit wacko over speculation rumors of things Microsoft doesn't even do, but they give free passes to Google, Apple, Lunix, etc for doing things with are unquestionably evil.

With Slashdotters, evil is entirely relative.

Re:Evil (1)

kwerle (39371) | about 7 years ago | (#20914821)

IANAL (patent or otherwise), but the description in the patent looks VERY specific.

This isn't a trailer with a computer in it.
It isn't a mobile command center.

What it looks like is (fairly specifically) a box with rackmounts that someone could get into. There are other constraints like size, cooling system details, etc.

What it looks like to me is that they will start using these, they think it is a clever design, and they might want to sell this specific solution. You would be a fool to come up with a specific solution that you wanted to sell and NOT patent it.

Think I'll invest in a big rig truck... (4, Funny)

Franklin Brauner (1034220) | about 7 years ago | (#20913457)

I wouldn't mind driving off with 5000 Opteron processors. Seriously, there's a downside to portability.

Re:Think I'll invest in a big rig truck... (1)

JackMeyhoff (1070484) | about 7 years ago | (#20913743)

Agreed, there is A LOT of money in metals these days :) Copper etc. :)

Re:Think I'll invest in a big rig truck... (2, Funny)

Gregb05 (754217) | about 7 years ago | (#20913761)

Interesting, a big truck that you could just dump things on...
I was planning on a series of tubes with which to funnel the data centers out, but they might get stuck behind enormous amounts of material.

Re:Think I'll invest in a big rig truck... (3, Funny)

Kingrames (858416) | about 7 years ago | (#20914127)

You're posting on slashdot. You're a geek. You wouldn't be driving off with it. They'd likely catch you in the thing as you're mid-climax.

Server Farm in a Trailer Park? (4, Funny)

nate nice (672391) | about 7 years ago | (#20913509)

So if I have a bunch of servers in a trailer and an ethernet cable sticking out of the door, I'm violating this patent?

I'm sorry, but white trash nerds have been doing this for a long time.

My Name is Earl - Intarweb Startup Episode (1)

StCredZero (169093) | about 7 years ago | (#20913995)

So if I have a bunch of servers in a trailer and an ethernet cable sticking out of the door, I'm violating this patent?

I'm sorry, but white trash nerds have been doing this for a long time.

Sounds like a new episode of My Name is Earl [nbc.com] .

Re:Server Farm in a Trailer Park? (1)

neowolf (173735) | about 7 years ago | (#20914147)

LOL! I didn't think about it this way. I live in a trailer full of computers and networking equipment. I could be a patent violator! :)

Re:Server Farm in a Trailer Park? (1)

Kingrames (858416) | about 7 years ago | (#20914283)

Oh god. They're turning the internet into a big truck.

Re:Server Farm in a Trailer Park? (1)

Minwee (522556) | about 7 years ago | (#20914775)

You see, it's not a tube, it's a series of trucks.

Re:Server Farm in a Trailer Park? (1)

gunner2028 (922634) | about 7 years ago | (#20914491)

I understand that your comment was focussing on the humor of the over-all theme, but in fact you would not be violating the patent. According to the patent claim (which defines the scope of the coverage) you would need to have a second trailer full of temperature control equpiment hooked to the first trailer with the computers. Below is claim 1 (typically the broadest in coverage):

A data center, comprising: at least one modular computing module, each including: a shipping container configured for transport via a transport infrastructure; and a plurality of computing systems mounted within the shipping container and configured to be shipped and operated within the shipping container; and a cooling module of a temperature control system, the cooling module including another of said shipping container, the cooling module being separate from the computing systems of the at least one modular computing module.

Please note that the claims requires a second shipping container with cooling module seperate from the computing system. Again I appologize for not focussing on the humor or your comment, but I thought it might be appropriate to provide a little insight into the situation.

Re:Server Farm in a Trailer Park? (1)

nate nice (672391) | about 7 years ago | (#20914949)

Si, what you're saying is I can have my trailer of computers but I can't leave the AC on?

How about my truck which is towing my trailer home of computers around? Can that have AC and a radiator? Would it be illegal for me to run the AC vents on my truck into the trailer?

heat (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20913537)

heat

the history of the internet (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 7 years ago | (#20913589)

1967: in the event of nuclear war, arpanet will route around damaged nodes, so that communication remains uninterrupted. nothing can stop us now

1987: first worm made. internet communication not guaranteed anymore

2007: in the event of communication problems, one of the world's most powerful companies will mobilize their TPT (trail park technology) army

2027: warhol virus takes out entire web, needs to rebuilt from scratch with ipv8

2047: in the event of worldwide internet outage, GoogleMicrosoftApple will deploy nuclear warheads to silence virus spewing nodes. the circle is complete

Re:the history of the internet (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | about 7 years ago | (#20913899)

2047: in the event of worldwide internet outage, GoogleMicrosoftApple will deploy nuclear warheads to silence virus spewing nodes. the circle is complete
I would have said "GooApploSoft", but :)

Re:the history of the internet (1)

StCredZero (169093) | about 7 years ago | (#20914041)

A Soft Apple Goo? Bye bye Miss American Pie.

Re:the history of the internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914269)

SoftAppleGoo is the correct spelling.

Re:the history of the internet (1)

everphilski (877346) | about 7 years ago | (#20914603)

I was gonna say a MicroGoo[ey]Apple, but whatever ... small, sticky, yet pretentious.

Uncle Sam beat em to it... (5, Interesting)

BiloxiGeek (872377) | about 7 years ago | (#20913611)

The military has been building and using that concept for decades. Portable satellite ground stations, portable phone switches, portable power generation, portable communication centers, portable damned near anything else you can think of that would be needed in a theater of operation. All built in a container like structure for easy transportation via land, sea and/or air.
I worked in one such container that housed a full Digital Subscriber Terminal Equipment (DSTE) suite with a second container of backup equipment while Saudi Arabia in 1986. (oops, that really showed my age.)

Re:Uncle Sam beat em to it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20913869)

Okay then, I've totally got dibs on the patent for data center containers at sea.

Next reply can have the patent for air.

Re:Uncle Sam beat em to it... (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 7 years ago | (#20913871)

Exactly - my wife worked on writing software for a ground station when she was with lockheed. It was basically a shipping container like they put on ships, but green and it could be pulled around. Inside was the mission planning software and such. That was around 1999 or 2000.

Re:Uncle Sam beat em to it... (1)

yppiz (574466) | about 7 years ago | (#20914359)

The US used a system like this for the Nike missile system - the computer, a gigantic analog one, was in a cargo container. I believe this was back in the 1950s.

Basically, it's just like Google's containerized server concept, except the packets are really, really large and the payload is somewhat more dangerous.

--Pat

Re:Uncle Sam beat em to it... (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 7 years ago | (#20914535)

SYN
AAAAACK!!!!

(not very funny but it's what popped in my head as I pictured it.)

Re:Uncle Sam beat em to it... (1)

kevinbr (689680) | about 7 years ago | (#20914743)

My father worked on the Nike system, I would ask him, except he is no longer alive......he as convinced his cancer came from the radar........

Re:Uncle Sam beat em to it... (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 7 years ago | (#20914197)

How many branches used VINES (omigod, a pun?), and essentially shipped lan-in-a-container systems to the Middle East around that time? I think they shipped everything but water, assuming that if there were users, there would be water. Latrines too.

This has been done before, and done fairly well. Won't someone please tell the USPTO to knock it off? It isn't funny any more.

Re:Uncle Sam beat em to it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914573)

Uncle Sam did more than this, too.

Back when most of our Strategic/Tactical computer work was done on Big Iron, the USAF had 4 section MAINFRAMES, complete with independent generators, that could be tactically air-dropped, and then assembled wherever they landed . . ..

Setting things up inside a shipping container is not only simpler and more obvious, but . . .. The military has "standard" shipping containers that include internal power distribution systems, and external cabelling to hook 'em up in the first place. These containers have multiple doors, allowing a nest of containers to be built and turned into a single "building" . . ..

Re:Uncle Sam beat em to it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914633)

I briefly worked in such a container, Cheatum Annex (I always mispronounce, this, and "The Farm" just inexplicably sorta rolls off the tongue) Summer 1988. I was delivering for a local florist, and they had me drive right up on base, park, get lost walking around a campus of nondescrpt unmarked buildings, only to find the recipient locked in a cargo container with another guy, who laughed (typical response to a bouchet) and invited me in because the recipient was in the back. It was dark, blinking lights, green monochrome displays... Both long walls were stacked with filing-cabinet sized computers. I was all like:"wtf are you guys doing?" and they were all like: " you dont wanna know" and sent me on my way.

Re:Uncle Sam beat em to it... (1)

jdknco (1170213) | about 7 years ago | (#20914707)

We also used standard ISO-sized shipping containers for CENTCOM's deployable headquarters (now in Qatar) for both expandable office space and servers in 2002. There was also a Shelter Management Office at Hanscom AFB set up in the late '70's and early '80's that helped projects across the Air Force design and employ standard ISO-sized containers in a multitude of deployable/transportable electronic systems (including a mobile satellite control system I worked on), back when a google was simply 10^100...

Now we know... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 7 years ago | (#20913635)

...Google doesn't read Cringely.

(I wish they did. the gCube he's written about would be well worth having!)

Worst Admin Job (1)

requeth (632121) | about 7 years ago | (#20913677)

I hope the Sys Admin doesn't suffer from claustrophobia or motion sickness...

The non-Useful Part (5, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 7 years ago | (#20913683)

facilitate 'rapid and easy relocation to another site depending on changing economic factors'.

Considering the rapid advance of technology, anything that's stood in one place for more than a year or two at most is probably not worth moving. A new one would prove cheaper, faster, at least double the capacity, and all within the same energy budget, or less -- which is what I expect will be the controlling factor for all new data centers.

Re:The non-Useful Part (2, Funny)

Kingrames (858416) | about 7 years ago | (#20914205)

640 PB should be enough for anybody.

Re:The non-Useful Part (1)

Franklin Brauner (1034220) | about 7 years ago | (#20914597)

At which time the old data center could be shipped off to Africa, et al., where they recycle EVERYTHING.

Re:The non-Useful Part (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914763)

This isn't only about costs. It is about time to deploy. Purchasing and installing the facilities can take months.

What's new about this? (4, Interesting)

saltydog56 (1135213) | about 7 years ago | (#20913687)

Back in the late 70's I worked with Marine Air Group 24 over at K-Bay, HI and the group's data center was contained in two big metal containers each about the size of a small semi-trailer - when they needed to move they popped them on a trailer, shoved them in the back of a plane, or whatever.

Each data center was made up of a Univac 1218 processor, an online card reader-punch unit, a drum printer, and a bunch of tape drives.

Seems like the same concept to me.

Re:What's new about this? (1)

Fizzl (209397) | about 7 years ago | (#20914049)

I would venture to guess that the unit was not primarily used for browsing the web or sending email to relatives?

new patent profit model (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20913689)

1. look at what the military has been doing for decades
2. patent it
3. profit

Sure the MSC-63A that the Marine Corps got stuck with in Desert Storm was an expensive piece of crap, but beef up the speed of the lines coming in and add more of them and that is all this patent is. And it was just an obvious upgrade from the Vietnam era data center in a storage container known as the MSC-63 with its two Model 28 teletypes with paper tape.

Telecom use before 2000. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20913691)

I know of at least one telecom provider that was doing the same thing as early as 2000. In order to get cheap interconnect rates with the incumbent, they would drop one of their pre-built point of presence containers within the "zero mile" radius of the central office. It already had the air conditioner, Ascend modems and various routers installed and cabled up. Their favorite locations were nearby parking lots, ministorage lots, and gas stations. All they had to do was wave a little money in front of the owner of the lot, get them to sign on the dotted line, and drop the container off the back of a tractor-trailer.

I'm sure there must have been at least one server in there, so we can just call this a datacenter in a shipping container and chalk to up to one more instance of the patent office out of control.

Motto (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20913735)

1) Do no evil and become big with the aid of "good"
2) Once big, betray "good" and do evil to profit
3) Profit
4) "Good" punishes google

Prior art in fiction? (1)

DamnStupidElf (649844) | about 7 years ago | (#20913767)

Who would ever imagine that kuro5hin [kuro5hin.org] would be useful?

Well then... (0, Flamebait)

goldspider (445116) | about 7 years ago | (#20913789)

...under what part of "Do no evil." does this fall?

What?! (0, Flamebait)

valkabo (840034) | about 7 years ago | (#20913803)

How dare they!!

What happened to do no evil! THOSE LIARS! I trusted them.. they said they would always love me and never treat me wrong..

What? Oh.. there a company? And this is a sure-fire way to make money in corporate america now? Intresting..

Wouldn't this make shipping computers illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20913887)

While I didn't read the patent, I've got to wonder..

Does shipping computers inside shipping containers constitute prior art?

US Military (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | about 7 years ago | (#20913895)

I haven't read the patent but I'm sure the U.S. military has plenty of prior art on this topic.

What, no 'non obvious' & 'prior art' tests? (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about 7 years ago | (#20913951)

Hell, even Hollywood thought of this one http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0337978/ [imdb.com] , let alone Uncle Sam and various other private corporations.

This smacks of 'patent defense' - Theyve got one, so others, (ahem - Sun?), will perhaps prefer horse-trading to frontal assault.

Still, pretty disappointing from the 'elite brains' @ Google.

Sun 'project blackbox' photos (2, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 7 years ago | (#20913955)

Sun has this already done and working, too. (I was there at the menlo park 'ceremony' and shot some photos of it):

http://www.netstuff.org/Sun_blackbox/ [netstuff.org]

sorry, no index.html yet - but I put together a thumbnail view in the time being:

http://www.netstuff.org/Sun_blackbox/contact_sheet.jpg [netstuff.org]

Certainly NOT Cringley's Idea (1)

BattyMan (21874) | about 7 years ago | (#20913967)

Didn't I see this on the X-Files?

IIRC there was one datacenter in a shipping container (with satellite connection?), and another heavily automated camper trailer with a T3 (or was it OC3?).

And it was a LOT more than two years ago.

Re:Certainly NOT Cringley's Idea (1)

kasek (514492) | about 7 years ago | (#20914079)

nobody said it was Cringleys idea....he simply reported that it was NOT Google's idea.

Buckaroo Banzai (1)

StCredZero (169093) | about 7 years ago | (#20914555)

There's also the double-decker tour-bus/command center from Buckaroo Banzai [imdb.com] .

Tubes? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20913969)

Wait 'til Ted Stevens finds out that the internet fits in a shipping container!

How can you patent putting something somewhere... (1)

corifornia2 (1158503) | about 7 years ago | (#20914025)

Im going to patent putting data centers in buildings . . .
And Im going to patent putting penises in vaginas.

USPTO == "retarded"

Another stupid patent... (1)

neowolf (173735) | about 7 years ago | (#20914085)

I had this idea over a decade ago. I wish I had written it down somewhere.

It came from my experience in the Navy 20+ years ago. They set up lots of things in shipping containers- laundromats, workshops, arcades, stores, even temporary offices. It occurred to me that a pretty efficient and portable server room could be set up in one. I even suggested it to my company when they were considering a "remote" data warehouse at the other end of their parking lot.

In any case- it certainly isn't a new or original idea. I love Google, but I can't believe they actually patented this.

1990: mobile computing center in container (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914099)

beware: German language: http://www.computerwoche.de/heftarchiv/1990/12/1144912/ [computerwoche.de]

And this was not even new in 1990. Siemens had them in special tubes that could be buried below the surfac e.

This appears to be an evil ploy by Google to destroy the USPTO.

Let me be the first today (1)

sqlguy33 (898340) | about 7 years ago | (#20914123)

To bow to our new Google Overloards.....

we must all now chant

Praise to Google...
Praise to Google...
(Now a word from our sponser...)
Praise to Google...
Praise to Google...

Hmmm... (1)

NetJunkie (56134) | about 7 years ago | (#20914221)

Not sure how they'll get by with this seeing as others have been doing it. But I can see why they'd want. These container ship data centers are becoming very popular. Why build an expensive DC somewhere when I can just drop a container in a spot that has power. If I build a big DC I run the risk of running out of power in the near future leaving my new DC unable to grow. With these containers you can drop and move as conditions dictate.

Is this even a good idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914449)

OK. I get it. Stackable, mobile, cheap etc...

But a very large cost for data centers is air conditioning. Now, I'm sure that these things are insulated, but there is no way that a bunch of shipping containers can be as cheap to cool as a well designed brick and mortar data center.

A Quick Google... (3, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | about 7 years ago | (#20914455)

Indicates that they indeed thought of this first. So what's the problem?

OK, I don't think they're quite THAT bad.. YET... I'm sure the guy granting the patent put almost exactly that much effort into his research as well...

Scientific American (1)

kuruptacus (974265) | about 7 years ago | (#20914461)

Scientific American had an article on this in the august 2007 issue.
http://scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa025&articleID=B1027B68-E7F2-99DF-352186A04761EB7F/ [scientificamerican.com]
It seems to really come from a defunct company named Thinking Machines which appears to have been mostly absorbed by Sun (at least the brains of the company)

OMG (1)

randomb0y (1170223) | about 7 years ago | (#20914599)

Dad?

Way back in '78... (1)

SheldonLinker (231134) | about 7 years ago | (#20914715)

Way back in 1978, the US JPO (military's Joint Projects Office) had a project named BETA (Battlefield Exploitation and Target Aquisition) which had a shipping container with a data center in it. (BTW, the project didn't go anywhere, because the correlations they were trying to do were useless, and also because they tried to make a bunch of PDP11s do what a VAX should have been doing.)

It's a bit more limited than a datacenter in a box (1)

mavenguy (126559) | about 7 years ago | (#20914741)

But not by much. The application had been rejected several times until the applicant added the limitation that the cooling system be in a separate box from the box containing the computing system. I don't know the prior art, but this doesn't seem like such a big deal, but adding this limitation was the basis for allowing the application.

Sun? What about Rackable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20914937)

http://rackable.com/products/icecube.aspx?nid=datacenter_5 [rackable.com]

I believe Rackable Systems went to market with this concept first, didn't they?

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