At the end of Treaure Island, San Francisco, a mysterious structure is rising from a floating barge. Although no one knows what is inside the series of modern cargo containers making up the strange structure, speculation is mounting that it belongs to Google.

Although Google has refused to comment on the matter, one expert who examined photographs taken of the site thinks that it could a sea-faring data centre. The position of the barge on water means that it would have easy access to a source of cooling.

Google Floating Data Centre

In 2009 Google was granted a patent for a floating data centre. Plus, putting data centres inside shipping containers is already an established practice, so evidence is mounting to support the speculation.

The site that has been acquired for the project, named Hanger 3, is well guarded and protected by a private security company but satellite images show that the barge holds a four-story-tall modular building made up of shipping containers. The containers all have three narrow slits for windows and one container slops down at a 45-degree angle. Everything is wrapped in dark netting, giving no hint as to what is inside.

Stanford research fellow and data centre expert Jonathan Koomey, said that although saltwater could be problematic as a cooling source, it is a surmountable problem. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all,” Koomey said, “if there were a bunch of containers, and it turned out to be a data center.”

Regulating temperature is one of the biggest costs in maintaining a data centre but Google’s patent describes a data centre on a ship that can be perpetually powered by ocean currents, using sea water to cool the servers.

If this structure does indeed belong to Google then it could save the company millions in data storage costs.

[Image via TechSpot]