What About Google’s Containers?

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So far 2008 is living up to its billing as a breakthrough year for containers. The “data center in a box” concept has been embraced by Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems (JAVA), Rackable (RACK) and Verari Systems all report strong interest in their container products.

But what about Google (GOOG)? Last October it was revealed that Google had been awarded a patent on a portable data center in a shipping container, confirming a 2005 report from PBS columnist Robert Cringley that the company was building prototypes of container-based data centers in a garage in Mountain View. But is the project still alive?


One of the inventors listed on the Google patent, William Whitted, has said publicly that the portable data center project has been discontinued. Whitted, who retired from Google in 2005, spoke about the project in a San Francisco Chronicle story last year. Whitted told the paper that “managers were too timid to pack in enough servers, so the experiment was not cost-effective and was ultimately canceled.”

Did Google patent the technology, and then shelve the project and step aside while its largest rival embraced container-based data centers? And what about the patent? We thought we’d check in with the company, just in case Google had anything to say about the current container craze. We asked whether Google was developing containers, whether it has deployed any, and whether it has discussed its patent with any of the companies building data center container solutions.

“We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with,” a Google spokesperson told Data Center Knowledge. “Some of those ideas later mature into real products, services or infrastructure, some don’t. We do a lot to make our infrastructure scalable and cost efficient, but at this time we have nothing to announce regarding this specific technology.”

And the mystery continues …

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.