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Microsoft Plumbs Ocean's Depths to Test ­nderwater Data Center

The Leona Philpot, a prototype underwater data center, being deployed off the coast of California last August.

Microsoft has tested a prototype of a self-contained data center that can operate hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean, eliminating one of the technology industrys most expensive problems: the air-conditioning bill.

Credit: Microsoft

A solution to the expensive requirement of cooling data-center servers could be found underwater, as Microsoft researchers have tested a prototype data center that can function hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean.

The concept, called Project Natick, also may address computing's expanding energy demands because Microsoft is weighing combining the system either with a turbine or a tidal energy system to produce electricity. The initiative might lead to strands of giant steel tubes placed on the seafloor and connected via fiber optics, or to capsules suspended beneath the surface, with turbines driven by the ocean current. The researchers think mass production of the capsules could dramatically accelerate data-center deployment to only 90 days, realizing significant cost savings. Web services also could operate faster via this scheme thanks to lower latency.

Microsoft's 105-day trial of a steel capsule placed 30 feet underwater near the California coast and controlled from offices at the Microsoft campus outdid expectations, as anticipated hardware failures and leaks did not materialize.

The researchers currently are designing a new underwater system triple the size of the original prototype, to be built by the developer of an ocean-based alternative energy system.

From The New York Times
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