Could the cloud go under the sea? Microsoft plans to put data centers on ocean floor
5:39

Could the cloud go under the sea? Microsoft plans to put data centers on ocean floor

Science
Forget the Cloud, the future of your data storage could lie under the sea. I'm a [INAUDIBLE] to hit you with a Disney reference right there and I'm gonna get right into telling you about a fascinating project that Microsoft Just wrapped up. Earlier this fall, the company pulled this tube from 117 feet of water of Scotland's Orkney Islands. Inside were 12 racks of servers that have been sitting there untouched for more than two years. No, this didn't fall off a barge or something like that. Microsoft put it down there. They've got some of the most harsh conditions in the world up there in the North Sea. And basically, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere so to speak. That's Spencer flowers from Microsoft explaining why they chose the Orkney Islands for phase two of project Natick. And the goal is to test the reliability of underwater data centers. And the concept might seem a little counterintuitive at first. I mean, why put data centers in a place that's so hard to access Well, number one, more than half the world's population lives within 120 miles of a coast. That means data has a shorter distance to travel than if it's stored somewhere in the middle of the country or even halfway around the world. It also offers an easy way to solve for one of the biggest issues with these mass data centers. Heat. The ocean is has an amazing capability to absorb heat. I mean water has over 1000 times the heat capacity of air. So the experiment I always like to talk about as efficient. Take like a balloon and pull over a candle it'll pop really quickly. But if you put a water balloon over again, it won't because it can absorb so much more heat. And because we are able to use the ocean water for cooling, we're not dependent on freshwater resources from local communities which is it has started to become a problem where. Typical data centers have to use freshwater cooling to keep those computers cool. We don't have that problem. Now, this wasn't their first voyage to sea so to speak. Back in 2015, Microsoft tested the first version off the California coast. And that was 105 days to essentially see if they could keep the computers from getting wet. Once they figured out, they could do that the next step was phase two, how to operate computers without anyone touching them for these long periods of time. Phase Two is what we call a lights out data center, the idea being whatever we put into the data center is what stays in the data center for up to five years until we pull it out to upgrade the systems. Now this is something that actually wasn't really possible until very recently. Anyone familiar with Moore's Law knows that for a long time, computer speeds were essentially doubling every two years, meaning that he couldn't leave these computer servers down there for so long without them becoming obsolete really, really quickly. Now, it's widely accepted that Moore's law doesn't really apply these days. I mean, at least not to that type of scale. Microsoft partnered with French company Naval group to build this data center. Now, they specialize in Naval Defence and that may sound like a strange partnership but it made sense for Natick on a couple of levels. So we knew how to manage our things which could stay quite a few years on the sea bed We're able to design and also to add renewable energy in the design and labor groups subsidiary naval energies specializes in marine renewable energy and made space was inspired by the The group's floating wind turbines. So what did Microsoft find after leaving the data center at the bottom of the ocean for two years, We expected it to be dirtier than it was. It was actually a lot cleaner. The area where you were deployed has some very strong waves and some very strong currents. And so that actually kept the the amount of biofouling or the amount of growth on it down. Okay?, so we know the outside held up. But what about those servers on the inside?. Well, Microsoft says the failure rate on those servers was about eight times better than their land based data centers. Now fower says it's probably because the Underwater environment in general it's just better for the computers. They don't like humidity, they don't like to be bumped a lot and they don't like temperature swings and all that happens on land. But in an ocean data center we're kinda free from all of that. And not only that engineers had left the tube filled with nitrogen. That's less corrosive to cables than oxygen is. Now, a lot of you are probably wondering the same thing I was, this all sounds great but what about the environmental impact? Well, Microsoft says they monitor the water temperature outside the data center and there wasn't a significant change. And as for the sea life- What we found was in the Cnet actually enjoys and takes advantage of the data center, became a bit of a reef we got some great videos of schools of fish swimming around the data center, even a seal swim up for a selfie in front of the camera. Now, I saw a few questions about the long term environmental impact here, but it's really hard to argue with these results. Not to mention that lower failure rate on the servers, means less electronic waste in the long term. And like so much of the tech I tell you about this is just an experiment right now. Founder says they still have a lot of data to go over before underwater data centers really become any sort of a reality. But I wanna know what you think. Does moving to cloud underwater, sound like a real scalable solution to you? Let us know in the comments below

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