A lot of companies in the cloud infrastructure are finding ways to make data centers environmentally sustainable. Microsoft, one of the leads in this business started a project called Natick a few years back. The project is aimed to find environmentally sustainable ways of running data centers. In the first phase, Microsoft dropped 300 Desktops underwater in 2016. The systems were functioning for nearly 4 months. When the vessel was examined, it was found that the sea life accepted it pretty well. The water did not heat much around the vessel and crabs colonized it. It did not cause any harm to the sea life hence it seemed like a good idea.
In the second phase, Microsoft has taken the project to another level. They emerged 864 servers in a sealed submersible in racks of 12 off the Orkney Islands. The location was chosen such because of the presence of European Marine Energy Center. So, the problem of energy requirement was already solved by the on-shore and off-shore sources available. The sealed submersible emerged is the size of a standard shipping container of 40 foot long. The sealed container is designed to function for next 5 years without any maintenance requirement.
Why Did Microsoft Drop Their Servers Underwater?
Putting servers under the water might seem like an odd idea but Ben Cutler, Microsoft researcher explains it. According to Microsoft, dropping the data centers underwater is energy efficient and helps in fast data transfer too. It can be noted that majority of the world’s population lives within 200 KM from the shore. Microsoft has been trying a lot to keep the data center as close as possible to the people for faster data transfer. Hence, keeping the servers underwater will provide faster online services. Another benefit is that majority of the cost in the data centers is used for keeping the centers cool. Hence, dropping it off underwater will help in saving those costs too. Moreover, offshore wind farms will provide the energy required to drive the data centers. Thus, trying such experiment makes sense.
Ben Cutler said that “In Microsoft, we are focusing keenly on our data centers with plenty of time and effort. This idea was particularly suggested by an employee who worked under U.S. Navy and had clue about this technology. Hence, we tried to apply the same technology for data centers too”.
Plans For The Submerged Vessel
Once the vessel was dropped off the ocean, providing maintenance is pretty much impossible. For example, the vessel was filled with nitrogen to prevent corrosion underwater. Moreover, the vessel is placed as such to retrieve it later and replace the systems again in the future. To study the container well, Microsoft has placed another container similar to it on the land. Ben Cutler has said that no such cutting-edge technology is used and that the servers are normal. Keeping in mind about shipping the containers to various locations, the container was developed in France. Later, it was loaded in a truck and shipped to England for testing the logistics.
This is not the first time Microsoft has taken such step. Last year, Microsoft partnered with Facebook and Telxius (Spanish Telecom company) to lay underwater cables. Around 6,600 KM underwater cable was laid between Virginia beach and Bilbao which supports 160 terabits per second transfer rate.
Thus by all this, Microsoft is keen on taking the cloud servers to another level increasing the speed and reducing the cost thereby.