In recent years, data centers have started popping in the oddest locations. Facebook, for example, managed to cut the energy bill by building one of its data centers in Lulea, Sweden, since the icy cold temperatures did wonders for the cooling process.
The social network also proposed a data center in Clonee, Ireland, one that will tap into the wind energy available locally. Google’s data center in Hamina, Finland keeps its cool by using sea water from the Bay of Finland.
Now, it is Microsoft’s turn to start looking at data centers under the sea. Its subsea solution attempts to reduce data latency for the users living next to the sea, as well as enabling the rapid deployment of a data center.
This project started in late 2014, only a year after Sean James, a Microsoft employee who previously served on a US Navy submarine, filed a proposal paper on the concept. In about a year, Microsoft had already designed, built, and deployed its own underwater data center in the ocean.
Leona Philpot, Microsoft’s prototype vessel, operated from August to November 2015, on the seabed about 1 kilometer away from the Pacific coast of the U.S. According to an official Microsoft page, the Project Natick – the name of the underwater data center experiment – has a long way to go.
It is still too early to evaluate whether the concept is viable for adoption by the company or even other cloud service providers. Project Natick is part of Microsoft’s “ongoing quest for cloud datacenter solutions,” offering lower costs, high responsiveness, and environmentally sustainability.
Undersea data centers are actually really helpful, seeing that they can serve the roughly half of the people residing within 200 kilometers from the ocean’s coast. Microsoft said that deploying these data centers in deepwater offers access to renewable power sources, cooling, and a controlled environment.
Moreover, it takes only 90 days to deploy a data center, and its lifespan can go above 20 years. Microsoft also considers 5 years for each “deployment cycle,” which mirrors the lifespan of the computers in it. After each cycle, the data center would be resurfaced, re-equipped with new computers, and redeployed.
On some community forums, users wondered whether or not an undersea data center will have a negative impact on the environment, given the warming of the water surrounding the data center.
Microsoft explained on its website that Project Natick – and any future subsea data centers – will be totally recycled and would emit have zero emissions. “No waste products, whether due to the power generation, computers, or human maintainers, are dumped into the environment.”
Image Source: This Is Colossal