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Startup Building Floating Data Centers

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the we're-leaking-bits-into-the-sea dept.

The Internet 256

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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the pirate bay (5, Funny)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968654)

I bet you could sell server space on one of these to thepiratebay...

Re:the pirate bay (5, Funny)

EMeta (860558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969126)

Sell? They're the Pirate Bay. Why would they buy it?

Because... (-1, Troll)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969264)

Because they once tried to buy the island-nation of Sealand [wikipedia.org] to have a place free of legal authorities from which to operate. They could not raise enough money, or it was just a publicity stunt; who knows. Buying an off-shore data center seems like the next logical step to me (I know that these are not really off shore in the legal sense. It was a joke). You can read about it here [wikipedia.org] .

I can see the marketing now... (5, Funny)

faloi (738831) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:I can see the marketing now... (2, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968776)

Yeah, but you have the advantage of actually using sysadmins as galley slaves.

Re:I can see the marketing now... (2, Funny)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969196)

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 magazines tell of the coming generations living on or under the water (commuting in flying cars)?

Re:I can see the marketing now... (1, Offtopic)

faloi (738831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969294)

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.

Try Earthquake protection. (5, Insightful)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969538)

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...

Seems silly, but... (5, Funny)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968676)

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a server farm under tow!

(latency's a bitch, though)

Re:Seems silly, but... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969080)

Remember also to never overestimate the buoyancy of 1000 TB of important business data stored in a 20 foot container

terrorism (2, Interesting)

Bizzeh (851225) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968702)

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 use wireless rather than wired, there would need to be a large antenna on the ship, which would:
1. be a target for everyone
2. allow people to intercept any connection.

Re:terrorism (4, Funny)

spleen_blender (949762) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:terrorism (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21969022)

...programming in Sea+

Re:terrorism (2, Interesting)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968762)

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 (2, Insightful)

ed.han (444783) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968894)

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

Re:terrorism (1)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969138)

'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

Re:terrorism (1)

eck011219 (851729) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969236)

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 affect society and government so martial law doesn't happen (with a healthy dose of encryption anyway, of course).

Re:terrorism (1)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969560)

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

Re:terrorism (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969286)

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.

Re:terrorism (1)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969448)

So it's like hosting in sealand only it moves . . .

I like it.

Terrorism - Irony (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968940)

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

Re:terrorism (5, Funny)

djasbestos (1035410) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969008)

They can still use pier to pier connections.

Re:terrorism (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21969100)

You sir, made my morning.

Re:terrorism (2, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969318)

Not after the RIAA enlists the Coast Guard.

Dan East

Please, not the terrorism card again (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969224)

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:terrorism (2, Informative)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969360)

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).

take it one more step (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21968738)

Float the ships off the coast, in international waters, fly a pirates flag and host accordingly.

Re:take it one more step (1)

Himring (646324) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969216)

Arrrr, matees, thar be parn!...

WTF would you need that for? (2, Funny)

Loibisch (964797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968746)

"[...] 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...

well (1)

wwmedia (950346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968764)

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

Re:well (1)

Ctrl-Z (28806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968862)

The same way that the ship is connected to the shore? You don't need to go underwater.

Re:well (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969208)

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 (5, Funny)

SnowZero (92219) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968892)

and how they plan to connect to the shore? lay a fibre cable?
piering agreements.

Re:well (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968950)

AIEEEEEE!
Go to your room.

D5! (5, Funny)

scoser (780371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968772)

You sunk my dataship!

Re:D5! (2, Funny)

u-bend (1095729) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969024)

I guess for once they don't want investors to sink their money into this one.

Re:D5! (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969282)

Sorry! D5 was just a Tor exit node!

Dan East

Not trying to be snarly here... (3, Funny)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968774)

I hope this idea floats, I hope they have enough liquid assets...

Oh the puns! I can't resist!

Re:Not trying to be snarly here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21968924)

Most likely... it will sink.

Re:Not trying to be snarly here... (0, Redundant)

Fishead (658061) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968976)

I wonder if they will setup a pier to pier network.

What a bad idea (1)

Isaac-1 (233099) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968780)

Wow another bad idea in a long chain of bad ideas. Lets pick a few reasons, lets locate a datacenter in prime industrial areas, on an unstable platform, near corrosive salt water, ....

Re:What a bad idea (1)

kingtonm (208158) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969262)

We've solved these problems in oil rigs, these aren't the issue. Although there are others.

Re:What a bad idea (2, Funny)

angus_rg (1063280) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969306)

Don't forget how easy it will be for Soviet subs to ping our servers. At least they should be safe from Land attacks [wikipedia.org] .

Re:What a bad idea (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969450)

You didn't get the point: the main advantage is free heating for the mission control room, what are millions wasted when you can save hundreds?

Sea air and electronics are not a good mix (5, Insightful)

putaro (235078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968796)

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.

Re:Sea air and electronics are not a good mix (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969124)

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.

Re:Sea air and electronics are not a good mix (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969190)

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?

Re:Sea air and electronics are not a good mix (1)

ConanG (699649) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969254)

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.

Re:Sea air and electronics are not a good mix (1)

ConanG (699649) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969186)

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.

Re:Sea air and electronics are not a good mix (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969240)

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 different than building a facility near the shore - you seal and climate control critical spaces as needed.

Also, most ships don't rock at the pier. They move with the tide but that is generally an up down motion which is barely noticable.

Re:Sea air and electronics are not a good mix (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969618)

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:Sea air and electronics are not a good mix (2, Informative)

mixenmaxen (857917) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969676)

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.

Proving Ground (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21968802)

Sounds like a great way to see if your [buzzword] idea will sink or swim.

Biodiesel? (2, Interesting)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968812)

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.

Re:Biodiesel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21968938)

They needed to throw in another hip buzzword to blind investors to the idiocy of their idea.

Re:Biodiesel? (1)

Nossie (753694) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968948)

how big are these ships? would solar arrays on the sides/roofs of the containers be enough to power any of it?

Re:Biodiesel? (1)

Nossie (753694) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968992)

They could avoid earthquakes by staying far out of shore.. but that would give them other more frequent issues. hmmmm

This idea aint gonna float.

Re:Biodiesel? (1)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969602)

fog

Re:Biodiesel? (1)

ToteAdler (631239) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969578)

Actually, bunker oil is one step down from crude. Its the leftover crap after they take out the gasoline, diesel, kerosene, naphtha, lubricating oil (all the stuff they can sell to other people). That being said, since its the left over crap, it comes with really bad emissions. Most ports won't allow you to sit at the pier and spew crap into their air. Its one thing to run a generator or two for lights, its another to be your own mini-power plant for your gianormas data center. The diesel or bio-diesel would be much cleaner burning but more expensive. I don't know how much electrical load a typical data center takes (if there is such a thing) but a fairly normal sized ship generator is 900kW (MAK 6M332 reference unit for anyone who cares).

Checking licensing documents... (2, Insightful)

Empiric (675968) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968814)

Ship's Register: Floating Point

Why did the USS Server go down? (1)

bareman (60518) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969048)

A problem with a heat sink.

Oh Great (1)

luckytroll (68214) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968824)

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.

Rationing applies (2, Funny)

rodney dill (631059) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968844)

Sys admins will only get one pint of grog per day.

Vulnerabilities and economies of scale... (1)

Gybrwe666 (1007849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968852)

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 might not lend for the best setup.

I can see in cities where real estate is overwhelmingly valuable that there might be some economies of scale, but it seems to me that many data centers are now being built in areas where there is tons of existing dark fiber, and land is relatively cheap. Not sure if this truly makes economic sense when it doesn't make a damn bit of difference where your server/data/systems are located. A millesecond or two in lag is all but irrelevant in the larger scheme of things.

Bill

Re:Vulnerabilities and economies of scale... (3, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969036)

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.

Re:Vulnerabilities and economies of scale... (3, Interesting)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Vulnerabilities and economies of scale... (2, Interesting)

Gybrwe666 (1007849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969596)

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 not sure that a floating data center is going to be cost-effective.

Not only that, but the vulnerabilities on a floating data center are going to be, at a minimum, the exact same if not higher. The data connections are going to be exposed, no matter what you do. At least in a land-based data center the fiber is buried, and less obvious. Not only that, but physical security can be made (and is made) relatively difficult in a land based data center, at least directly surrounding it. A floating entity would have a far higher risk of approach due to the traffic that occurs on the water near a port.

As far as exposure to attack on fiber, well, I can tell you the exact man-hole in the city where I live that you can toss an IED and take down virtually every carrier in the market. Those don't exist simply at data centers, but everywhere, due to decisions decades ago that have caused choke points in fiber distibution.

I'd also question the ready availability of dark fiber at a port from multiple carriers. While I don't know as I've never looked at it, it seems to me that ports, being quasi-government facilities, probably weren't wired with fiber with multiple carriers, let alone all the big carriers, as most major data centers are. You might have 2 or 3, but I'd guess that's under contract and the number of directly available carriers is still low. This is a disadvantage for a vendor-neutral data-center that would likely want/need connectivity to all the big boys to entice customers. This might not be true if the port is a launch point for inter-continental fiber, but certainly that's not the case at most ports.

Bill

Eh? (1)

Penfold1234 (920794) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968902)

What's with the current trend for mobile datacentres?

First Google with their datacentre on a truck, and now these guys... Surely the main idea of the Internet was that it wouldn't matter where you put your data!

Are the land prices that expensive that it's worth giving up all the advantages of a bog-standard datacentre in a building?

What's the point? (1)

guy5000 (1211440) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968908)

I can understand being able to move the data center around but why not but some cheap land and just build infrastructure for the center (these are supposed to be permanent anyway). Surely that is cheaper then buying a ship and the upkeep (not to mention that the boat could sink. Also dock space is still a form of real estate with rents that fluctuate, obviously dock space is also limited.

Watch out for my submarine! (0)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968988)

You just wait until my mortgage company puts its records on one of those things. Torpedos away! Oppps, sorry Mr. Stork, all of your records were destroyed... guess you just don't have to make that payment any more!

New meaning (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21968998)

...for off-shoring?

Feasible, yes. Practical, ... (1)

DarkTitan_X (905442) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969006)

Sure it can be done, but just how practical is it?

The only semi-practical application I can perceive would be use as a co-location site when docked in port, and in the event of an impending disaster, the ship can leave port and move the servers out of harm's way. Still, this seems impractical. Most co-location data facilities I've visited are built like bunkers and can withstand up to a category five hurricane.

Bandwidth also presents a problem. The co-location facility my office uses supports several thousand businesses in my area, and has abundant bandwidth to service them all. How feasible would it be to provide an optical carrier connection to a cargo ship in port? What about bandwidth out at sea? The only type of connection I can picture out at sea is satellite. It's been a while since I researched satellite connections, and bandwidth was nowhere near as high as we can get from an OC connection, let alone a DS-3 or even a T1. Has satellite networking really improved that much, or is there some other type of long-range, high-bandwidth wireless connection that I'm not aware of?

Re:Feasible, yes. Practical, ... (1)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969484)

Actually redundancy can be exponential in this case, if some of the ships are always in route, then the data cannot be censored or destroyed by any single event or government, or abomb.

It creates a target the size of the ocean in effect, and that is very very difficult to destroy.

So long as it doesn't physically enter a jurisdiction, then it cannot be searched forensically, so deleted files stay deleted.

AIK

Oblig. Futurama Quote (1)

sjaguar (763407) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969034)

I would use the floating data centers to build an offshore casino with blackjack and hookers.

Actually, forget the casino and the hookers.

What a way to burn venture capital (1)

Tragedy4u (690579) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969040)

This is the kind of crazy stuff I expected during the dot-com era of the late 1990's. Maybe they should call it Titanic Datacentres. One bad storm or nasty leak in a boat and all your infrastructure sinks.

I hear (1)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969044)

that Joseph Hazelwood is still looking for a gig.

Re:I hear (1)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969710)

You mean St. Joe??? (Ok, I know, I am the only one who actually saw Waterworld.)

Possibly the worst idea... ever (1)

thefear (1011449) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969076)

This idea is akin to the kind popular in the late '90s, I honestly hope no venture capitalists are stupid enough to be sponsoring these guys. How could they possibly have a tangible backbone connection? what happens when the ship has to leave dock and they don't have any internet lest a satellite connection. I'm sure their customers will absolutely love the 5sec latency.

emergency use cases (1)

peas_n_carrots (1025360) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969096)

Maybe this is targeted at emergency scenarios. An example might be when Katrina knocked out much of the power/comms in New Orleans. They could drop one of these cargo containers at the dock and get the network back online quickly. That seems to be the only viable model for this, as it can't compete with land-based data centers in price and stability.

Maybe we ought to fill them with cargo (1)

krad1964 (1131635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969108)

Anyone worried that we have to find novel ways to use cargo containers?

Re:Maybe we ought to fill them with cargo (1)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969492)

What? Like exports? How quaint.

Wow. What a stupid idea. (1)

sirwired (27582) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969150)

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 mostly recirculated air, their chillers are going to get corroded to junk pretty quickly.
4) What exactly is a "major internet market" if you are referring to a geographical location? As long as you can get a fiber drop, you can get all the bandwidth you need. Google is building all sorts of data centers in the middle of nowhere, where Real Estate is practically free.

SirWired

Re:Wow. What a stupid idea. (1)

ConanG (699649) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969388)

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.

Albert Einstein... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21969426)

...was absolutely correct when he said: "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Port Fees? (2, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 6 years ago | (#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...

Re:Port Fees? (1)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969372)

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.

Re:Port Fees? (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969508)

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

Datatypes (3, Funny)

Dan East (318230) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969212)

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

Wow, what a bad idea! (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969250)

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 pretty expensive in and of themselves.

The sad thing: This proves we are in an economic bubble and the pop is coming!

I just thought of something. (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969258)

If this works, it could be feasible to have data centers in space. If WIFI coverage could ever extend that far, what stands in the way of having a solar powered server in low orbit?

Well, on site support and maintenance might be problematic, but don't kill the dream with logic just right now.

Well... maybe it won't work after all, not until maintenance or reliability becomes less of an issue. I'd hate to be the one to send a million dollar space mission up to replace a fried motherboard...

Starcraft (1)

RancidMilk (872628) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969298)

I don't remember the Terrans being able to build floating data centers. Is that like a barracks where nerds are created?

Startup Building Floating Data Centers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21969352)

Kinda like a really big thumb drive.

Re:Startup Building Floating Data Centers (1)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969662)

depends on the size of your thumbs

Interesting approach (1)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969370)

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. Having your own dormant volcano like in Cryptonomicon is probably an easier route.

Plus, think of all the pirate-jokes you'd have to endure. Arrgg!

yo^u4 FAIL it (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21969400)

'I have to k1ll there are electe3, we took confirming the

Don't pay your bill... (1)

nullCRC (320940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969404)

over the railing it goes.

12.1 mile fiber optic cable (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969430)

The only way I can foresee this being useful is if they locate the ship in international waters but close enough to shore to still have a really kick ass connection.

Float your Data (1)

poor_boi (548340) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969490)

{{ Insert joke about a float not being large enough to store all of your data, here }}

Longshoremen (1)

CaligarisDesk (1189113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969510)

I'd be a little worried about the union implications. Given their ties to the mafia, I wouldn't be surprised if these "data centers" were some kind of money laundering operation. The containers are empty and they pay a $100/hr gantry crane operator to move them around once a day.

Backups?? (1)

sheph (955019) | more than 6 years ago | (#21969648)

They better have a good disaster recovery plan. Imagine a whole data center lost in one fell swoop as it sinks to the bottom of the sea!!! That's one major loss of carrier.
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