Microsoft believes the best way to store data is to keep the equipment under the sea.
Computers will often heat up such that the best way to prevent them from overheating is to set them up in air-conditioned rooms to ensure they are not damaged. This also means that the electricity bills will be huge. This is why tech company Facebook chose to protect its data centres by shifting them to colder areas as a way of reducing costs. Microsoft wishes to go a gigantic step further: dragging their enormous data centres underwater.
Microsoft’s testing of the concept with its first (and the world’s) submarine data centre named Leona Philpot has now been completed. This is part of a bigger project (Project Natick) which is meant to build a data centre in the ocean with the aim of increasing speed and cost-efficiency. Submerged data centres are also thought to be more environmental friendly and more feasible to set up.
The testing period lasted from August to December 2015. The data centre has now been returned to headquarters of the company for analysis purposes.
As a way of testing Leona Philpot, engineers had had a huge steel capsule sheltering one data centre computing rack placed a kilometre off the coast of California around 9 metres underwater. The steel capsule included a hundred sensors to provide information about the conditions of the environment in the ocean such as pressure, motion, and humidity. This test proved to be more successful than the engineers had initially thought.
Air conditioning is one aspect entailed in the advantageous position of the data centre. Microsoft adds that 50% of the world’s population lives within 200 km of the coast and thus having data centres near will mean faster data delivery. Furthermore, the data centres (with the steel capsules) might be very easy to build; it would take only 90 days, according to Microsoft, instead of the usual 2 years.
However, the limitations of the concept cannot be denied either. Maintenance of the equipment will prove to be tricky. Furthermore, salty water might not constitute the ideal environment as it could be corrosive.