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Microsoft Project Natick: Storing Your Data Under The Sea

The Leona Philpot is christened and deployed off the coast of California. Image: Microsoft

When thoughts turn to data center location, one might guess that their servers are located in major metropolitan areas. While that is currently true, there is a shifting idea about how to better utilize the energy consumption of these facilities. Currently ISP’s spend billions annually just to keep their machines up and running. The problem experienced by these providers is one that involves the rules of thermodynamics. You see, these machines produce a lot of excess heat, meaning that the storage facility must be well insulated and air conditioned. When the machines get too hot, the server crashes, costing the ISP time and money. Microsoft believes that they have found a solution to this problem by exploiting the depths of our oceans.

The Natick Team: Eric Peterson, Spencer Fowers, Norm Whitaker, Ben Cutler, Jeff Kramer. (left to right)  Image: Microsoft

The Natick Team: Eric Peterson, Spencer Fowers, Norm Whitaker, Ben Cutler, Jeff Kramer. (left to right) Image: Microsoft

Having these data centers in the icy depths of the sea will save millions on cooling costs and storage. The venture has been dubbed Project Natick. Microsoft is currently exploring ways in which to harness the energy of the ocean, solving yet another problem – that of energy consumption. The team has planned to use the natural currents to generate electricity via tidal motion. The actual contraption is a jellybean shaped pod with a built in turbine. The turbine catches the waves beneath the surface and in turn powers the pod. Using this technology, Microsoft claims that they are able to make these machines in masses. The current time for the creation of a center is just under two years, but using this new method the company would be able to open a new center every ninety days.

 Image: Microsoft

Image: Microsoft

This new way of broadcasting internet signal could also benefit people around the world by bettering access to the internet. Microsoft claims that most of the world’s population live along the coast. By creating these underwater data centers, they are better able to serve those whom currently live a long distance from centers. Presently Microsoft only runs about one hundred centers worldwide, but with the new technology they would be able to double that in a very short period of time. This in turn gives much better accessibility to the general public and helps to solve speed and latency issues.

 Image: Microsoft

Image: Microsoft

As demand for new and innovative ways to stay connected to the internet arise, companies like Microsoft are forced to think up new and improved ways to provide service. With over seven billion people in the world and more on the way, the cloud services currently offered must be consistently updated in order to keep up with the work load. These new data centers offer both energy efficiency, and savings in the millions. There are however some concerns about potential pollution within our already troubled oceans. Since these data centers are so new, there is doubt about their performance especially at great depths. The equipment just completed a one hundred five day run in the Pacific Ocean at depths of thirty feet. Officials say there are multiple fail safe options built into the machine, and future models will be able to withstand up to five years under the water without maintenance. While the project is still years away from completion, it will be interesting to watch this endeavor grow.

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