THE VINE SEPTEMBER 15, 2008
The Times of London has obtained a recent patent application from Google, which put the following on the supercompany's wish list: "Computing
centres ... located on a ship or ships, anchored in a water body from which
energy from natural motion of the water may be captured, and turned into
electricity and/or pumping power for cooling pumps to carry heat away.”
What on earth? I hear you cry. Since when do we have to build massive offshore barges just to store all that information we're constantly rooting around for on the Internet? Well, it seems that computing, caching and warehousing information for billions of people tends to generate quite a lot of heat. And researchers expect that "by 2020
the carbon footprint of the computers that run the internet will be larger
than that of air travel." (Good thing air travel is going the way of the mix tape.) Obviously, data storage companies, which consumed one percent of the world's
electricity in 2005, are desperate to cut down on the overhead--and the carbon emissions--needed to keep enormous processors
from melting down.
The tree-hugging Internet industry is reportedly trying everything:
Microsoft has investigated building a
data centre in the cold climes of Siberia, while in Japan the technology
firm Sun Microsystems plans to send its computers down an abandoned coal
mine, using water from the ground as a coolant. Sun said it could save $9
million (5 million) of electricity costs a year and use half the power the
data centre would have required if it was at ground level.
The offshore barge idea, while not without its security risks and other potential pitfalls, is a pretty good outside-the-box solution to the industrywide problem. Snaps to Google for that. After all, we already run fibre optic cables beneath the sea, bringing Internet research to all. Why not have supercomputing islands of the corresponding output bobbing above?