Virtualization Featured Article

The Data Center of the Seas

February 04, 2016

It seems like it had to happen. For decades, we have had the presence of data centers here on land. Later, the technological concept of cloud entered into the public consciousness. Now, Microsoft has gone ahead and introduced computing in the ocean. In an innovative program designed to explore the advantages of using the ocean for cooling and placing data close to island territories, the company successfully sent an unmanned data center down to the bottom of the sea. 

The company has asked, “50 percent of us live near the coast. Why doesn't our data?". The ongoing test is known as Project Natick. The mission is to explore the potential for ocean-based data centers that are better for the environment, lower operational costs, and help with geographic proximity and performance. The first steel capsule is known as the Leona Philpot. Keen observers and fans of the Xbox game Halo will recognize this character name. The 3,800 lb. watertight steel pilot capsule was dropped off down to the ocean floor thirty feet below in a location about a half mile off the California coast. The experiment lasted 105 days in total, and throughout the experiment, sensors measured a number of factors including internal humidity, motion, and underwater pressure. 

It’s not clear if Microsoft will be deploying capsules all over the Pacific just yet, but they were able to accomplish a number of things with this experiment. That includes proving the viability of the capsule in a typical ocean setting, statistical data about the conditions surrounding the capsule, and capturing the imagination of countless engineers.

Microsoft states that coastal datacenters could reduce latency due to their relative location to half of the population of the world. A fleet of deployed steel vessels submerged across oceans would mean the typical 2-year wait for construction of a data center would be reduced to a 90-day proposition.  Microsoft also touted the cooling aspects to this experiment, adding that cold seawater was exclusively used to handle the cooling of the sealed computing units.   

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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