Microsoft wants our data to live underwater.
Yes, you read that correctly. The company has announced that it wants to build a major data center underwater, with a goal of understanding what the benefits are of deploying undersea data centers on a wider scale.
Not only that, but according to the company's blog post, there could be some real benefits to having data centers underwater - the major one being that they can be powered by renewable tidal energy.
The project is called Project Natick, and there are a number of reasons for the company wanting to build data centers underwater. One of those is customer proximity. A large portion of the world's population lives near coastlines, and having data centers near those coasts could improve the performance of cloud-based services such as Netflix. Putting data centers underwater also helps eliminate the possibility of those centers overheating.
The first underwater data center is called Leona Philpot, and it was tested last year around a kilometer off the California coast. It was deployed 30 feet underwater, and included one data center computing rack enclosed in an eight foot-wide capsule. That capsule included a number of sensors, including units that tracked humidity, water pressure, and so on.
After successful tests, the data center was sent back to Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, where it was analyzed. According to Microsoft, the deployment of automated underwater data centers can take place much faster than land-based ones. While a land-based data center would take two years to build and be fully operational, Microsoft says it can deploy an underwater data center in 90 days.
There also are additional benefits to the research. "We're learning how to reconfigure firmware and drivers for disk drives, to get longer life out of them. We're managing power, learning more about using less. These lessons will translate to better ways to operate our datacenters. Even if we never do this on a bigger scale, we're learning so many lessons," says Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research NExT.
Microsoft's next test will include a capsule that will be three times the size of Leona, and will take place some time next year.