Microsoft’s Project Natick brings data centers underwater
Jordan Novet January 31, 2016 9:11 PM
Microsoft today unveiled Project Natick, a fascinating research
initiative that could bring cloud computing infrastructure closer to
big cities near large bodies of water — by putting data centers
Microsoft isn‘t running any web services, like Office 365, through
the data center infrastructure inside of these capsules. But
Microsoft did build one (named the Leona Philpot, after the Halo
character) and set it 30 feet underwater off of the California coast
for four months in 2015. The capsules could have their computing
hardware replaced every five years, but eventually they could well
be kept underwater, without people onsite, for 20 years or more.
And they could be powered by renewable energy, too.
"Project Natick reflects Microsoft‘s ongoing quest for cloud
datacenter solutions that offer rapid provisioning, lower costs,
high responsiveness, and are more environmentally sustainable,‖
Microsoft explained on the website for the project.
It‘s an unusual and forward-looking way for a company at
Microsoft‘s scale — or any scale, really — to operate its core data
center infrastructure. It‘s reminiscent of the Google barge that
some people suspected had been intended to house data center
hardware. (Other reports suggested it could be used for retail
purposes.) But that project has been forgotten. Major web
companies like Google and Facebook are now focusing on using
aircraft to deliver the Internet to people, which has taken up some
of the spotlight on research into new or better ways to deliver services. But the servers, storage, and networking equipment
have got to live somewhere.
One might think putting data centers in the ocean might have
environmental repercussions. But Microsoft is indicating that
nothing untoward happened in the initial experiment.
"During our deployment of the Leona Philpot vessel, sea life in
the local vicinity quickly adapted to the presence of the vessel,‖
Microsoft said on the Project Natick website.
Now Microsoft is looking to advance the research by building
larger capsules. People working on the project have begun
devising one three times as large as the first, according to John
Markoff of the New York Times.
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