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Google patents containerized data centers

October 09, 2007

Google was today granted a patent for a data-center-in-a-shipping-container that sounds a lot like Sun Microsystems' Blackbox and Rackable's Concentro. Spotted by a Slashdotter, the patent appears to be quite broad, covering "modular data centers with modular components" that "can be implemented in numerous ways, including as a process, an apparatus, a system, a device, or a method." In one embodiment specified in the patent:

a modular data center generally includes a modular computing module including an intermodal shipping container and computing systems mounted within the container and configured to be shipped and operated within the container and a temperature control system for maintaining the air temperature surrounding the computing systems ... The modular design enables the modules to be factory built and easily transported to and deployed at a data center site.

The patent, which was originally applied for back in December 2003, also covers the "method for deploying a data center, comprising: building at least one modular computing module at a first site, each including: a shipping container configured for transport via a transport infrastructure; and a plurality of computing systems mounted within the shipping container [and] transporting [the container] to the data center site different from the first site via the transport infrastructure; and connecting at least one resource connection to the at least one modular computing module." The resource connections include "electricity, natural gas, water, and Internet access."

In setting out the context for the invention, the patent appears to provide a little peak into Google's own data centers: "a large scale deployment of a server farm such as a mega data center may involve 300,000 computers, with a service life of approximately four years per machine. In such a large scale server farm, an average of over 1,400 computers per week are de-racked and racked just to keep pace with end-of-service machines. At a rack density of 40 trays per rack and 1 computer per tray, approximately 36 racks are replaced each week." It also provides a hint of Google's broader strategy for siting data centers, noting that a containerized data center "facilitates rapid and easy relocation to another site depending on changing economic factors, for example. The modular data center thus helps to make the moving of a data center more cost effective and thus more economically feasible."

It will be interesting to see what this patent means for Sun and the other pioneers of trailer park computing.

UPDATE: The Register has Sun's first comment: ""We are aware of a modular data center patent being issued to Google. Our legal team is reviewing the patent, as this is a broad concept. Until that review is complete, we don't have further comment." Sounds like they were surprised.

Comments

That patent WILL NOT SURVIVE even in the Texas circuit for the simple reason that the technology in question is *clearly* present in prior teachings. Multiple of the favorite Sci-fi authors of the silly valley crowd have suggested very, very similar ideas. Some MIT project or other worked on "what industrial toolkits can you pack into a shipping container" etc. There was even an art group in Berkeley, since kicked out, exploring the shipping container design space systematically, if eccentrically (and, at least officially, in a way that endangered public safety). This patent doesn't stand a chance (and it's not even a software patent!)

Thinking of clever ways to explain why an obvious invention is obviously valuable does not make it less obvious.

-t

Posted by: Tom Lord [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2007 05:33 PM

It's important to consider that large companies patent ideas defensively. So, patent sharks can't come along later and sue them for using their ideas.

Google doesn't have a history of using their patents offensively. Most companies don't. It will likely be very damaging for a company to use patents competitively since the party most often damaged by patent damages is the customer since the cost of goods and services go up to cover the money exchanged.

The patent fees paid by RIM come to mind. They survived the outcome and have a secure base of loyal users based upon innovation on some simple "patentable" ideas.

Posted by: mcd [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2007 02:48 PM

Google's concept will work GREAT in areas affected by major disasters, especially if their containers are accompanied by another container with generators or solar power, satellite links, etc.

Posted by: impy22 [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 04:16 PM

WARNING ALL USERS: THIS SITE ASKS FOR YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION, THEN PROVIDES IT TO STRANGERS, AND THEN ALLOWS NEW USERS TO LOG IN TO OTHER FOLKS ACCOUNTS AND TO MAKE POSTS UNDER NAMES THAT ARE NOT THEIRS. FOR EXAMPLE, I AM NOT IMPY22. I LOGGED INTO HIS ACCOUNT USING MY OWN USER NAME AND PASSWORD. WHEN I CHECKED MY ACCOUNT, I GOT ACCESS TO ANOTHER THIRD PARTY'S INFORMATION. DO NOT GIVE THEM COMPANY ANY MORE PERSONAL INFORMATION OR POST ON THEIR PAGE UNTIL THEY CLEAN UP THEIR ACT. I AM NOTIFYING THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION AND FBI AND MY ISP OF THEIR MISUSE OF PERSONAL INFORMATION.

Posted by: impy22 [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 04:20 PM

They just did it again. I again clicked on the link this fraud operator sent me, and it took me to the account of Jerry Harriman. So Jerry, if you are out there, contact the FBI right away and report this scammer. Now your personal email address and other information you furnished is in the public arena, and not confidential like this fraudster promised.

Posted by: impy22 [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 04:23 PM

I sent the site owner an email to report this and got no reply. There is NO contact information on this site, so it appears that there is indeed something fishy going on. I have documented everything and will archive a copy with my boss (an attorney) and in my own investigative notes as well.

Posted by: impy22 [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 04:25 PM

My email to the site owner just came back marked unable to deliver as the email address is false.

Posted by: impy22 [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 04:27 PM

impy22,

I'm sorry you're having some problems, which as I'm sure you know are not uncommon for Internet users, but your accusations regarding this blog and its owner (me) are out of line. The authentication system for commenting on this blog is Typekey, a service provided by the well-established software company Six Apart. If you believe there is some flaw with that system, please contact Six Apart with your concerns. I believe you'll find, however, that the source of your problems lies elsewhere.

Regards,

Nick

Posted by: Nick Carr [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2008 12:44 PM

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