October 30, 2013
Man, you just never know what those folks at Google are going to come up with next. Whether its driverless cars or Star Trek eye ware to help ensure that no one has a private moment, these guys are always thinking up new ways to amaze us. I mean does anyone ever have a bad idea there, or is “no” just not an option on the corporate decision tree? In case you haven’t heard, rumor has it that they have developed a floating data center. Apparently, a mysterious floating barge has been sited off of San Francisco Bay’s Treasure Island. Since Jack Hawkins and Long John Silver were unavailable for comment, the local media has done some detective work and found that a lot of Google folk seem to be conveniently hanging out in the area. Based on their powers of deduction, tech paparazzi have put two and two together to determine that Sergei Brin and the boys now are looking to add the high seas to their global dominance itinerary.
Apparently they are following the old adage that “form follows function” and are stacking container-like structures on a barge in this initial effort at crafting a floating home for server and storage equipment. While this is obviously a long way from the Queen Mary, I for one am impressed. Here at Compass we can build a data center any where on dry land, but we figured that we weren’t going to have to worry about a product for the seven seas for at least the next decade or so, and now Google is already paving the way for new industry entrants like Carnival Cruise Lines. Does this business move fast or what?
Certainly, this move toward ocean-going data centers is going to change the way that we look at things. Let’s take staffing for example. Sure, you landlubbers can get by with a few techs and engineers, but are they going to be able to bring your data center safely into port? Of course not, so you’re going to need a captain at least, and he’ll probably want to bring along his trusty first mate. The Skipper had Gilligan, and I dare say that a floating data center is going to be just a bit bigger than the S.S. Minnow. I would think that some of the more innovative companies may also want to use this new architecture as a means to open up new revenue streams, so you may also need to add a few crusty old salts or harpooners if commercial fishing or whaling are on your expanded services list.
Now I think that performance and productivity on these floating homes for virtualized and Big Data applications will be quite high. This will be primarily due to the fact that maritime law is so different than what we use here on dry land. If you’ve ever seen one of those old Errol Flynn—I’ve seen “Captain Blood” at least 20 times– or Tyrone Power swashbucklers, you know what I mean. I think we can all agree that the prospect of being flogged or keel hauled really narrows down the possibility for those outage causing human errors. Of course, this sterner level of discipline does open up the possibility of mutiny on the high seas, but, not to be too disparaging, but does anyone see the average data center employee as capable of overpowering a whole ship full of guys with bandanas on their heads and patches over their eyes who use “arrgh” as a noun, verb and adjective. Me neither.
Recreation is probably an issue that will need to be considered when building a floating data center. Life at sea can be lonely, and no one wants to think about what might happen when a bunch of drunken data center engineers hit port. Space is kind of limited on-board ship, so there would probably have to be a lot of table related activities like ping pong or bingo. I don’t think we can underestimate how important a good cruise director is going to be on the average data processing voyage. Maybe they could even have a small bar open in the evenings. I think that guy who played “Isaac” is still looking for work.
Like any new venture, I think the jury is out on floating data centers. Google obviously sees some promise and I’m always up for something that gives me a reason to say, “Shiver me timbers”. We’ll just have to see how things evolve over time, but be ready if this market really takes off. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to feed my new parrott.