Microsoft Sinking Data Center in the Pacific

By Aiswarya Lakshmi
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
Photo: Microsoft

 Microsoft swims to ocean’s depth to test underwater data center as environmentally friendly cloud computing alternative. The software giant has dropped a data center into the Pacific Ocean off California. 

 
Microsoft  gave details of its rationale for going underwater, explaining the idea, called Project Natick, would cut costs when it comes to keeping the data center cool, as well as be environmentally friendly and more responsive to customers.
 
"It may sound like something from a James Bond film, but it could be a solution to one of the industry's most expensive problems - air-conditioning bills," says a report in the Sky news.
 
A Microsoft post said the first data center to be submerged was the Leona Philpot, which was operated less than a mile off the Pacific coast of the United States from August to November. 
 
"Project Natick is focused on a cloud future that can help better serve customers in areas which are near large bodies of water (where nearly 50 percent of society resides)," the company explained. "The vision of operating containerized datacenters offshore near major population centers anticipates a highly interactive future requiring data resources located close to users. Deepwater deployment offers ready access to cooling, renewable power sources, and a controlled environment."
 
Data centers are warehouse-sized rooms—some can be as big as football fields—full of computer servers that power the world's internet services. All of those servers generate a lot of heat, and it takes a significant amount of additional energy to keep them cool so they don't crash. 
 
If researchers can figure out a way to keep them naturally cool underwater, it would drastically reduce the cost of building and maintaining data centers.
 
The underwater server containers could also help make web services work faster. Much of the world’s population now lives in urban centers close to oceans but far away from data centers usually built in out-of-the-way places with lots of room. The ability to place computing power near users lowers the delay, or latency, people experience, which is a big issue for web users. 
 
It took 90 days to build the vessel that housed the experimental datacenter. It appeared that unlike land-based servers, which require to be tailored depending on terrain and environment, this underwater facility does not need any special adjustments.
 

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