Is San Francisco Mystery Barge a Secret Google Data Center?

Mike Schuler
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October 27, 2013

The mystery barge at Treasure Island below the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge. Photo credit: James Martin/CNET

A report from tech media website CNET has revealed that a mystery barge seen near San Francisco Bay’s Treasure Island could be a floating data center being built by Mountain View, California-based search giant Google.

The investigative report by CNET says that the structure, standing about four stories high and made with a series of shipping containers housed onboard a barge, has Google fingerprints all over it.

Google’s plans for such structures are no secret. We first heard about Google’s floating data centers in 2008 when it was revealed that the company filed a patent for a “Water-Based Data Center.”

In the patent application, the system was described as “a floating platform-mounted computer data center” comprised of a several crane-removable module “computing units” to be powered by a “sea-based electrical generator” and use one or more “sea-water cooling units.”

So why would Google want a floating, scalable, self-sufficient data center? Well the answer to that is simple.

By having mobile servers, Google can reach communities even in the most remote areas to ensure fast service to its users. As we reported way back in 2008, good examples would be Olympics in Beijing, military or response to a natural disaster at a remote location. Often times with such events, a sudden flood of web traffic can be too much for local infrastructure, causing delays in speed or even a crash of the entire system.

A floating data center would seem to solve many of those problems.

Of course Google, if in fact they are behind the mystery barge, has remained super tight-lipped about any project in San Francisco Bay, but you can read CNET’s full investigative report HERE.

Interestingly, a similar but different barge recently sailed recently into Portland, Maine after a trip from New London, Connecticut. Like the San Francisco barge, the barges background has also been cloaked in secrecy, leaving local media and the public completely in the dark.

In fact, the Portland Herald has reportedly linked the two barges to same company in Wilmington, Delaware, By and Large, LLC.

So for now, the mystery continues…

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