Microsoft Data Centers Reach New Depths

Microsoft Natick
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In one of its most unique projects, Project Natick, the software giant Microsoft recently tested the future possibilities of placing and operating it’s data centers in the depths of the ocean. The fact that today’s world and our daily activities are largely driven by the Internet is generating acute needs for centralized computing. Microsoft alone manages more than 100 data centers globally and is adding more at a rapid pace.

The fully contained data center Leona Philpot, named after a popular gaming character, was placed approximately one kilometer off the Pacific coast of the United States from August to November of 2015. The capsule is designed to last for two decades, before being recycled. The computers inside the capsule have a lifespan of 5 years, post which they will be replaced. This unique idea of placing the data centers underwater was adopted from a submission made by an employee, Sean James, to ThinkWeek, which is an event Microsoft organizes to gather improvement ideas from their employees.

The capsule which is 10 feet by 7 feet in dimension, comprises 100 sensors to measure humidity, motion, pressure, and under water conditions.

When I first heard about this I thought, ‘Water … electricity, why would you do that?’ ” said Ben Cutler, a Microsoft computer designer who is one of the engineers who worked on the Project Natick system. “But as you think more about it, it actually makes a lot of sense.

Another amazing idea could be to suspend the jelly bean shaped containers beneath the ocean surface to catch the currents from turbines for generating electricity. This could be an iconic move as it will also be a big step in resolving the electricity problems with many countries and may also help in making electricity cheap.

Since data centers today manage nearly everything from emails to video streaming to social networks they are often at the risk of crashing due to overheating. Significant efforts and investment is put in to maintain ideal conditions for the data centers. Hence, if developed successfully, this research can save the enormous electricity bills generated from keeping these data centers in a cold place. It will also be a favorable solution for reducing the carbon footprints, a major cause of global warming worldwide.

The project also makes a lot of sense in terms of increasing the data performance speed leading to better customer experience, since according to Microsoft, With about half of the world’s population living near large bodies of water and a shift to accessing software hosted in the Internet cloud, having datacenters submerged nearby could save money and speed up access to information.

Microsoft states that the experiment has been conducted successfully and they plan to develop a four times bigger capsule for the next phase in the experiment, and that would apparently include 20 times the computing power. Microsoft is yet to reveal more details about the location or the specifics of the next phase of the experiment, however, speculations are rife that experiments may be conducted near Florida or Northern Europe.

About the author

Parikshit Nath

Parikshit is a writer by heart and passionate about technology consulting and astronomy. Loves to spend time with his family and kids.

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