Have you ever seen or heard of a new product or innovation and said to yourself, “I could have thought of that?” Except you didn’t, so some other guy is buying a new Ferrari while you’re still tooling to work in a Hyundai. This dissonance between what could have been and reality is fairly common, and is typically due to one of three reasons. The first of these is audacity. This category includes those individuals who have an idea for a product that is so crazy that naturally it becomes a success. For those of you old enough to remember, the guy who came up with the “Pet Rock” and the lady who came up with the “Snuggie” are the poster children for the members of this august body. The second impediment to acquiring product-related wealth is the ability to identify a need and fill it. The guy who irretrievably dropped his cellphone in-between his car seat and the console and was inspired to come up with that suction cup holder thing is a perfect example of this concept. The third, and perhaps most difficult impediment to success is using ourselves as our single source focus group. My marketing guy epitomizes this visionary constraint since his first reaction to most anything is, “Why would anyone want that?” Despite the fact that most of us are a bit “innovationally challenged,” this does not mean that we’ve lost the ability to be mystified by a completely new idea, and you can include me in the “amazed” club now that someone wants to combine a fish farm… with a data center…in Cleveland.

The basic idea behind this unlikely union between computing and Mediterranean sea bass production is not all that uncommon. The company behind the plan, the Foundry Project, intends to use the data center’s waste heat to provide the heat for the aquaculture farm. A number of facilities, from condos to swimming pools, have adopted this methodology to warm up their environments, but everybody is pretty sure that this would be the first instance where hot aisle by-product has been used to provide our aquatic friends with a family friendly environment.

Like many of you, I believe that the unique nature of this project is only enhanced by its planned location in Cleveland. Maybe it’s just me, but a city in the heart of the country’s Rust Belt seems like a surprising place for Mediterranean sea bass to call home, but I guess the scaly little guys are pretty adaptable. Apparently, the city fathers have targeted the area to be used for the project as part of a larger urban economic development effort, and if they feel that developing an artificial sea bass spawning ground in conjunction with 20-40,000 square feet of raised floor is the best way to cure urban blight, so be it.

A Foundry spokesman described this planned endeavor as a “high visibility opportunity,” and I don’t think anyone can argue with that. Just like you, I’m a little curious as to what potential data center pairings were considered and rejected before the big group “eureka” when the fish farm idea was broached. Maybe it just kind of evolved. Someone suggested a really big koi pond, and things just took off from there. I think we’ve all been involved in projects like that.

In taking on this project, it’s pretty obvious that the folks at Foundry and the city fathers of Cleveland score pretty high on the audacity scale, but are on a little shakier ground when one factors in the hidden need and focus group of the reality portion of the new idea success equation. I certainly applaud their bravado. And, if this project really takes off, can’t we all agree that the number of potential marriages between data centers and animal habitats is virtually limitless? I don’t know how all this is going to work out, but if it works in Cleveland, I think we should all dare to dream.

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