Microsoft Just Put a Data Center on the Bottom of the Ocean
Microsoft just sent its first self-sufficient, waterproof data center to the bottom of the ocean floor near the Orkney Islands in Scotland, the company announced on Tuesday. About the size of a shipping container, the tubular data center holds 12 racks loaded with 864 servers and is attached to a large triangular weight that anchors it to the seabed over 100 feet beneath the ocean surface. The deployment of the data center represents the culmination of a nearly four year research effort code-named Project Natick, which aimed to develop rapidly deployable data centers that can support cloud computing services near major cities.
In addition to cutting down the amount of time needed to create a data center on land from about 2 years to around 90 days, the submarine data center has the added benefit of natural cooling from the ocean, eliminating one of the biggest costs of running a data center on land. The bottom of the ocean is also isolated from many disasters that could affect land based data centers, such as war or hurricanes, although Microsoft did not mention how difficult it would be to make repairs to the servers inside the container should they malfunction. The move is part of a larger push at Microsoft to become a leader in cloud computing, which is at the heart of most consumer-facing web applications you use on a day to day basis.
Considering that over half of the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the coast, submarine data centers can ensure that major cities are always close to the physical servers that comprise the cloud.