Microsoft’s Underwater Data Center

Microsoft has recently developed a data center in an extremely unusual place- the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Microsoft has recently unveiled Project Natick, an initiative to bring cloud computing infrastructure to cities that are closer to bodies of water such as the ocean. It is estimate that half of the world’s population lives within 200km of the ocean, so placement of data centers underwater can strategically improve efficiency and response.

In 2015, Microsoft built a capsule filled with pressurized nitrogen that featured a single rack of servers and heat exchangers clamped to the hull in order to regulate the temperature inside. The capsule was submerged 30 feet underwater off of the California coast for 100 days. Such capsules could have their computing hardware replaced every five years; the lifespan of these capsules in 20 years. Microsoft aims to make these under water data centers self-sufficient by utilizing renewable energy to power them. Microsoft is exploring wave and tidal energy.

 

Microsoft explained that “Project Natick reflects Microsoft’s ongoing quest for cloud data center solutions that offer rapid provisioning, lower costs, high responsiveness, and are more environmentally sustainable…”The vision of operating containerized data centers 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.”

Microsoft stated: “We see this as an opportunity to field long-lived, resilient datacenters that operate ‘lights out’ — nobody on site — with very high reliability for the entire life of the deployment, possibly as long as 10 years.”

 

Additional comments:

Microsoft spokesperson Athima Chansanchai has commented, “That’s one of the big advantages of the underwater data center scheme—reducing latency by closing the distance to populations and thereby speeding data transmission. Half the world’s population, Cutler says, lives within 120 miles of the sea, which makes it an appealing option…Cooling is an important aspect of data centers, which normally run up substantial costs operating chiller plants and the like to keep the computers inside from overheating. The cold environment of the deep seas automatically makes data centers less costly and more energy-efficient.”

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Erin M
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