Friday, October 25, 2013

Building the singularity

About six months ago I made my way through William Hertling's Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears.

It's a fun book, if not great literature.

One of the big elements of the book involves a large Internet company which has decided to deploy a set of offshore floating data centers on large sea-going barges.

So anyway, here in the now, and closer to the home, comes this: Is Google building a hulking floating data center in SF Bay?

The barge is 250 feet long, 72 feet wide, and 16 feet deep, and was built in 2011 in Belle Chasse, La., by C & C Marine and Repair. Its registration number is BAL 0010. Behind it is a perfect view of the new eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. On top is a four-story-tall modular building made from shipping containers and sporting 12 tall white spires that look like they could be anything from masts to flagpoles to antennas. The containers each have three narrow slits for windows, and there is a stairway on the northeast corner that goes from ground level to the top. There's also one container on that side that slants to the ground at a 45-degree angle. Wrapped mostly in dark netting, the structure doesn't reveal what's inside.

As various people have pointed out, similar barges are being built elsewhere: Barge holding mystery structure due in Portland Harbor

Patrick Arnold, director of operations and business development for the Maine Port Authority, said he doesn’t know what the structure is, who paid to have it built, or where it is going, but "this looks to me like a modular fabrication for an industrial site."

Having seen photos, he said the structure doesn’t look like a movie set or an office building. "It’s clearly a modular fabrication for a project of some type," he said.

There's a lot of speculation, and a lot of curiosity. As several people observed, the concept of offshore data centers has been discussed before: Google Planning Offshore Data Barges

The Google design incoporates the Pelamis Wave Energy Converter units, which use the motion of ocean surface waves to create electricity and can be combined to form “wave farms.” The largest existing project uses seven Pelamis units to generate about 5 megawatts of power. Diagrams included with Google’s patent application indicate the company plans to combine 40 or more Pelamis units to produce 40 megawatts of power.

It's somehow both exciting and nauseating to see this level of compute power.

I'll keep my eye on this mystery project and see if more details are revealed.

I wonder how much else of Hertling's dystopian novel is on its way to becoming true...

No comments:

Post a Comment