Google deploying floating structures at ports on east and west coast

in General Discussion edited January 2014
Mysterious Google-owned, barge-borne structures made of slotted-together cargo containers have recently appeared on both coasts, and speculation as to the structures' purpose is running wild.

Google's floating building
The mystery San Francisco barge | Source: CNET

Two structures of similar design have thus far been photographed, one moored at San Francisco's Treasure Island and the other at a wharf in Portland, Maine. A third is rumored to be under construction in Connecticut, but photos of the southern New England erection have yet to surface.

Each edifice looks to be constructed from 48 standard-sized shipping containers arranged in a three "decks," each featuring sixteen containers laid out in a four by four grid. The decks sit atop a slightly shorter and narrower base that appears to also be made of containers, and a portion of a container at one end of the lowest deck is angled down to form a "ramp," which presumably acts as the entrance to the facility.

Portland's Press Herald was the first to report on the structures and initiated speculation on a possible link to Google. The paper spoke to the CEO of Cianbro, a marine outfitting company working on the Maine-docked barge, who said the firm is "absolutely forbidden to discuss it in any way or in any detail," but indicated that the project will be of great benefit to the state.

Google's floating building
The mystery Portland, Maine barge | Source: Portland Press Herald

CNET published a much more in-depth report last week and found evidence that the San Francisco version is indeed owned by the search giant and suggests it is being prepared as a floating datacenter. Google is the owner of a 2009 patent for floating data centers which would anchor up to seven miles off shore, using wave energy generators for power and taking advantage of cool ocean water for temperature regulation.

"The cutouts in the long walls of the containers, when they line up, they make hallways," Joel Egan, head of cargo container building design firm Cargotecture, told CNET. "You could put all sorts of mainframes into the containers."

San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX followed up with an investigation of its own, reporting that sources told the station the barges are not destined to become datacenters, but rather floating marketing hubs for Mountain View's Google Glass augmented reality headgear.

KPIX says Google's ultimate goal would be to park the barge at San Francisco's Fort Mason, but that work has stalled because the company is having difficulty obtaining the necessary permits.

Taking into consideration Google's patent, the simultaneous construction of at least two of the structures --?one on each coast of the United States --?and Google's history of going to great lengths to increase the reliability, speed, and power efficiency of its datacenter network, it would seem that the datacenter explanation is the more plausible of the two.


  • Reply 1 of 61
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,263member
    No property taxes for their off shore data centers.
  • Reply 2 of 61

    Heck yes, time for the ship jokes.


    “Isn’t it funny, a ship that leaks from the top…”

  • Reply 3 of 61
    tinktink Posts: 395member
    Lets see%u2026%u2026 would a giant water heater running 24/7 have any environmental impact on the the surrounding water temperature and marine life...
  • Reply 4 of 61
    What about storms and hurricanes%u2026I hope they have researched this enough...
  • Reply 5 of 61

    They should call it the Sea Drive.

  • Reply 6 of 61
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    So not relevant to Apple news.
  • Reply 7 of 61
    Off shore tax shelter.
  • Reply 8 of 61
    16 x 4 = 64 not 48.

    Presumably the author meant that it's 12 long by 4 wide (by 3 high).
  • Reply 9 of 61
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,926member
    Perhaps they are Google's local spy command centers.
  • Reply 10 of 61

    I think they're building floating "armored cars" and that Apple is finally going to bring some of their billions of dollars back home!

  • Reply 11 of 61
    msanttimsantti Posts: 1,377member
    Probably something evil.

    It is Google.
  • Reply 12 of 61
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    I support anyone who finds a use for the seventeen gazillion (some sources say up to nineteen gazillion) shipping containers that are sitting disused and rusting in massive mountains around the world. My city has several such mountains! What a waste.
  • Reply 13 of 61
    satchmosatchmo Posts: 2,699member
    Forget Google Glass and bring in Google Goggles.
  • Reply 14 of 61
    So, I find it hard to believe no government agency knows exactly what this is. From a homeland security standpoint, you would think you could not just build a huge floating barge, park one on each coast, and not have someone demand to know exactly what it is. Even less sinister, you would think that you could not build a monster floating structure in SF Bay and not have SF or at least California not know exactly what it is for environmental compliance reasons or complying with work safety rules during construction and other regulations.
  • Reply 15 of 61
    So we can just park huge barges on our shores with letting anyone know what's in them in the name of marketing? 9/11: Google forgot already.
  • Reply 16 of 61

    It's probably just some Google employee's zany 20% idea.

  • Reply 17 of 61

    Why the need to be secret about a floating datacenter? 

  • Reply 18 of 61
    Someone took "Ship it!" literally.
  • Reply 19 of 61
    So, Google's Cloud runs on water?
  • Reply 20 of 61
    It's the Google Borg v1.0 scratch that Beta. They really are branching out these days.
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