Water and electronics normally don’t mix very well, but that isn’t stopping Microsoft from running a data center under the sea.
It sounds odd, but its true; Microsoft built a submersible data center – named Project Natick – and had it running on the seafloor of the Pacific ocean for about four months last year.
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Granted, it wasn’t the most powerful datacenter in the world – Microsoft equates it to about 300 desktop PCs – but it’s still an impressive feat.
It wasn’t all just for show either. Building submersible data centers may sound like a clumsy idea, but Microsoft argues they can increase efficiency and reduce operating costs significantly compared to traditional structure.
For instance, ocean floor datacenters could be powered by the movement of water, as opposed to the wind and solar that powers many terrestrial ones. Meanwhile thermal costs would be much lower, as the datacenters would be chilled by the vastness of the ocean, and temperatures would remain relatively consistent (talk about water-cooling).
Placing datacenters along coasts could also help reduce latency, as according to Microsoft, half of the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the sea. It’s easier to and faster to find a spot in the sea to place a pre-built data center than to build a new one on land.
Time will tell whether the idea will catch on, but Microsoft is still pursuing the concept. The project’s next phase might include a datacenter four times as large and 20 times as powerful.