Under the Sea? The Future of Data Centers

by Tyler Hoyle

Recently, Microsoft has revealed Project Natick: a radical plan to manufacture and operate underwater data centers. Researchers believe this plan will be more environmentally sustainable, cost efficient, and improve overall quality of service. While mixing water and electricity seems silly, why might this work? Well there are several hypothetical advantages.

Microsoft manages more than 100 data centers across the globe, spending an estimated $15 billion on global data and providing for over 200 online services. As cloud computing becomes more popular, the demand for data centers is increasing rapidly. Data centers power almost every aspect of our digital lives and contain thousands of computer servers which constantly generate large amounts of heat, when there is too much heat, the server crashes. Companies are constantly searching for efficient ways to keep data centers cool.

Keeping the data centers cool takes up a sizable amount of the company’s budget. Immersion in water could be less expensive than paying for air conditioning and cooling. Microsoft researchers also argue that mass producing underwater server containers offers a huge cost advantage because It could shorten the construction time of new data centers from two years to just 90 days.

Project Natick could be more energy efficient. If electricity were to power a tidal energy system, no new energy would be added to the ocean, which would mean that there is not overall heating

The project also makes sense from a logistical perspective. A majority of the World’s population lives in urban centers that are closer to the ocean than data centers, typically built in far-away places on land. The ability to place computing power closer to the users would decrease the latency, which would improve the speed of web services.

Markoff, John. “Microsoft Plumbs Ocean’s Depths to Test Underwater Data Center.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 31 Jan. 2016. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.

Kanellos, Michael. “Three Things To Watch In Microsoft’s Underwater Data Center.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 5 Feb. 2016. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.


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