Google (GOOG) has been awarded a U.S. patent for a portable data center in a shipping container, a development that is bound to shake up the emerging market for portable data centers. Google hasn't demonstrated that it actually has a "data center in a box," although the existence of such units has been rumored since 2005. The patent filing dates to December 2003, indicating that Google was contemplating the concept two years before PBS columnist Robert Cringely reported its existence. The patent was awarded today, and first noted at Slashdot.
The Google patent poses a challenge for other portable computing products, especially Project Blackbox from Sun Microsystems (JAVA), which is housed in a shipping container. Other companies with modular computing offerings include Rackable (RACK) with its Concerto and ICE Cube, and IBM, which has a prototype of its Scalable Modular Data Center installed at Bryant College in Rhode Island.
The inventors listed in the patent are William H. Whitted of Palo Alto, Calif. and Gerald Aigner of Zurich, Switzerland. Whitted was also listed as the inventor on a 2005 Google patent for a custom cable management system, while Aigner is an engineer who has worked closely with Google Senior VP of Operations Urs H