Why is Microsoft testing its Data Centre underwater?
Microsoft never fails to surprise us with their innovative methods to bring down costs of their projects. Another such innovative test is being conducted as Microsoft has decided to submerge one of its Data Centre under water. The submerged data center is not as physically large as those we see on land. In fact, it is just a cylindrical vessel containing computers. This Data Centre can remain submerged for up to 5 years, without any maintenance. The reason for submerging a data center underwater is that Microsoft believes that the cooling costs underwater would be significantly less than that of cooling data centers on land. Another reason to do this according to Microsoft is that they can use all the oxygen and water vapor which will reduce corrosion. Corrosion is one of the leading problems which occur in data centers. The one drawback of this project is that if there is any kind of failure, it won’t be possible to repair the computers. Microsoft however, is expecting a lesser failure rate, than that of their data centers on land. It’s not the first time Microsoft has sunk its data center. In fact, on August 10, 2015, a first data center submarine was deployed. This was more than 30 meters below the surface of the water and was kept there for the duration of almost 100 days. The main challenge here is a reliable hardware as the repair would not be an option. This data center was named after a Halo character from Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Leona Philpot. This experiment was called as project Natick.
What is Project Natick Initiative?
Project Natick consists of testing underwater data centers. Microsoft manages around a 100 data centers all around the world. At Microsoft, they have an event called the Think Week. Where they encourage their employees to share ideas on advancing technology. In 2013 a U.S. Navy veteran co-authored an article on underwater data centers. Approximately a year later a meeting was held in Washington. The research team had Eric Peterson, Spencer Tower, Norm Whitaker, Ben Cutler and Jeff Kramer.After which one another year the first underwater data center was deployed. Now, this event marks the second phase of Project Natick and it will determine whether the concept is environmentally and economically practical or not.
What do these data centers contain?
This offshore Data Centre is relatively small when compared to the data centers on the ground which are sometimes as large as a football field. This cylindrical container would be 40 feet long. Microsoft’s staff would be monitoring the data center for next year and it has around 864 servers and 12 server racks. This data center will be submerged into the ocean floor of the northern isles which is near Scotland. The submerging section of the project is under a 400-year-old French firm, The Naval Group. The Datacenter was shipped to Scotland on a flatbed truck.