The Next Hyper-Efficient Data Centers May Be Located Underwater

From giant squids to sunken treasure, the ocean has a way of hiding secrets better than any other place on Earth – so why not hide your personal information down there too?

That scenario may soon be our reality, as Microsoft has unveiled that, for the past year and a half, they have been testing a prototype data center that is completely submerged underwater. Devised by Microsoft engineer Sean James, the theory argues that placing the massive server farms underwater could dramatically reduce both construction and cooling costs, as well as provide a reliable source of renewable energy and even improve their performance.

Dubbed “Project Natick,” the prototype system is located 30 feet below the water’s surface off the coast of Central California. The servers have been encased in an 8-foot-diameter steel drum sealed tight with bolts and waterproof fittings. Several tubes running through the drum allow for the transfer of heat from the hot processors into the cool ocean water, while the computer chips within are cooled using liquid nitrogen.

After the initial testing period, the team discovered that the servers were performing even better than predicted, even while running a generic commercial cloud software. The engineers also noted that sea life surrounding the capsule was able to quickly adapt to its presence with minimal impact, and that the cluster could even serve as habitat for some species of sea creatures.

A shot of the underwater data center. Screenshot via Microsoft

While Project Natick is powered by external cables that connect back to the shoreline, the team hopes future iterations may be able to harness the natural power of tidal waves to provide a perpetual renewable energy system.

With initial signs for the project being so positive, Microsoft is planning on continuing to develop the system over the next few years. A long-term goal to produce capsules that can sit quietly on the seafloor without maintenance for five years will still require improvements to the current materials.

The next step will see the expansion of the program to locations off the coast of Florida and somewhere in Northern Europe to see how the system reacts to different aquatic environments.

Read a full report on Project Natick here.

News via IEEE Spectrum.

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Cite: Patrick Lynch. "The Next Hyper-Efficient Data Centers May Be Located Underwater" 24 Feb 2017. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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