Google Meets Waterworld

Updated: May 13, 2009

Land is expensive. Land near abundant electricity is even more expensive. Land is taxed, the open sea is not. You don't need building and land use permits, environmental impact studies, and a lot of other red tape. Building a floating data center eliminates a lot of expenses. Of course, a floating data center has its own expenses that land-based data centers do not have.

Ships cost a lot more than buildings. Employees who have to commute three to seven miles offshore presumably cost more than workers who can take the bus. It's pretty much a given that Google would pay workers' ferry costs, and the cost of parking near the docks. While plenty of employees might find it cool to work at sea at first, eventually ship duty gets dull and salaries rise accordingly.

Internet connectivity is a big question and one that commentators are blithely ignoring. The floating data center is three to seven miles offshore, remember? How do you connect it to the Net? Microwave RF or perhaps laser beams (in clear weather) seem to be the only viable options. Pundits who get paid to disapprove of things say it would be insane to build a business on invisible beams of light instead of comfortingly solid wires and glass fibers. But where's the wire on your phone or your notebook computer?

Google is admirably willing to be trained; that is, to learn. In the face of great doubt, Google shows great faith in its bold idea. It remains to be seen whether the company puts forth the great effort necessary to build a floating data center, operate it and receive training from that unique experience.

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