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Google Patents Shipping-Container Data Centers 207

Posted by Zonk
from the pick-it-up-and-move-it-out dept.
theodp writes "Two years ago, Robert X. Cringely wrote that Google was experimenting with portable data centers built in standard shipping containers. The idea, Cringely explained, wasn't new and wasn't even Google's, backing up his claim with a link to an Internet-Archive-in-a-Shipping-Container presentation (PDF, dated 11-8-2003) that was reportedly pitched to Larry Page. Google filed for a patent on essentially the same concept on 12-30-2003. And on Tuesday, the USPTO issued the search giant a patent for Modular Data Centers housed in shipping containers, which Google curiously notes facilitate 'rapid and easy relocation to another site depending on changing economic factors'. That's a statement that may make those tax-abating NC officials a tad uneasy."
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Google Patents Shipping-Container Data Centers

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  • by DigitalReverend (901909) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @12:08PM (#20913731)
    MOBIDIC [usarmygermany.com] was one such project and was a part of Operation FRELOC [usarmygermany.com].

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOBIDIC [wikipedia.org]
  • Re:Oops! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @01:11PM (#20914809)
    Well, looking at google's claims it seems to be more to do with the particular arrangement of the cooling system rather than the act of putting a data center in a box. In fact the pdf referred to in the summary is even cited. So, the examiner was aware of it and considered the application to be inventive over it.
  • Re:Evil (Score:3, Informative)

    by king-manic (409855) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @01:35PM (#20915197)
    Could someone please remind me how patenting something obvious is not evil?

    Many companies keep a defensive collection of patents. Say AT&T sues Google about some algorithm they patented. Google digs and finds a few AT&T infringes on and presents that. They realize a fight would only benefit lawyers and settle on mutual cross licensing. Sort of a corporate brinkmanship/deterrence.
  • by mr_mischief (456295) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @02:31PM (#20916091) Journal
    I'm not a physicist either, but I think I spotted a couple of flaws in your solution.

    You don't really want either the inside or the outside to gather heat. If you were dealing with radiated broad-spectrum light that got transferred as heat once it hit a surface on both the inside and the outside, then ideally you'd have it reflective on the outside and transmissive on the inside. There are a few issues with that solution still, though:

    • That's probably not a material you'd use to make a shipping container. Steel or aluminum are, and it's pretty easy to make the outside reflective with those either by polishing them or by painting them white. You don't want them polished too smooth of course, because then they'd be mirrors, but think polished brushed stainless like a DeLorean.
    • You probably don't want people seeing the equipment inside anyway, which is what a transmissive material would allow (unless it's translucent and partially transmissive).
    • The exterior color is more important, because you don't want to pick up additional heat by gathering the energy radiated in sunlight. You've already got the heat on the inside of the container, so getting it out requires ventilation or plumbing. Just capturing it on the ceiling and walls isn't going to cool the interior. The computers are not radiating their heat as light to be trapped by a surface and reconverted into heat. Well, not if you still have a data center instead of a smoldering scrapheap, anyway. There are hot surfaces surrounded by metal, air, or possibly something more exotic like glycol or vegetable oil. You need to not just keep from capturing the heat, but actively move the heat away from the components generating it in order to cool your systems.


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