Microsoft Corporation, the technology giant behind the popular Windows software says it just finished a three-month experiment operating an underwater data centre.
The technology company says a server rack with the power of about 300 PCs was placed into a water-tight steel cylinder and lowered into the ocean off the coast of central California, USA.
Water and electronics usually don’t mix. But Microsoft thinks dumping computers in the ocean might be the wave of future.
Ben Cutler, the project manager says “The Whack experiment was launched because current data centers are woefully inefficient. They’re built where energy and land are cheap (not close to where people actually live). And they waste so much energy cooling their massive computers.”
According to Microsoft, “the ocean can solve those problems. Ocean currents can produce enough energy to power the sub-sea data centers. The cold ocean floor sufficiently cools the computing components inside the pod. And since most people live near the ocean, placing data centers under water could potentially increase the speed at which customers could access the information stored in Microsoft’s cloud.”
The experiment was so successful that Microsoft operated the underwater data centre for 75 days longer than it had planned to, the tech company.
“It even began running actual customers’ workloads on it” Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft adds.
Ben Cutler, who led the team behind this experiment, dubbed Project Natick has this to say: “We take a big whack at big problems, on a short-term basis. We take a look at something from a new angle, a different perspective, with a willingness to challenge conventional wisdom.”
Whitaker, head special projects for Microsoft Research NEXT says, “As we started exploring the space, it started to make more and more sense. We had a mind-bending challenge, but also a chance to push boundaries.”
James, a senior research program manager for the Datacenter Advanced Development team within Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure & Operations says, “In my experience the trick to innovating is not coming up with something brand new, but connecting things we’ve never connected before, pairing different technology together.”
Microsoft claims that the underwater data centers’ net heat will be zero, since it is completely powered by the ocean itself — a confusing, but scientifically accurate, theory. It also found that the noise its underwater data center produced was drowned out by nearby shrimp and crabs.
The data centers are also built from recyclable materials, and Microsoft believes that the total carbon footprint of underwater data centers will be “dramatically lower” than current land-based centers.
Lee believes that going under water can shift the building of data centers from construction projects to manufacturing jobs.
“What if we could pump out these pods on an assembly line?” he pondered. “We could deliver a data center, from conception to operation, in 90 days. That’s dramatically different than what’s happening today.”