Today’s data centers are increasingly high-tech and more extensive than ever. That’s why some companies are experimenting with creative ways to design them in future-focused ways.
One interesting example is Microsoft’s underwater data center. The company recently let everyday people see what’s going on by installing two cameras delivering feeds of what’s happening.
The default view shows past footage, but people can also put their cursor over a video feed to make the options appear and click the LIVE checkbox for in-the-moment developments.
Both cameras show the exterior of Microsoft’s vessel doubling as a data center. People can see the cameras by clicking on the ‘Live Cameras!’ link at the top of the official website about the project. The first shows it from a slight distance, and the other provides a significantly closer view.
One thing people should immediately notice about both cameras is a large amount of fish in the vicinity. At any given time, dozens usually swim around the data center, and the prominence is particularly evident when looking at the camera on the right, which shows the nearer perspective of the two. Sometimes, it’s hard to see the data center because there are so many fish gathered around it.
An Exploratory Project
Beyond the cool cameras showcasing aquatic life as it happens, this data center from Microsoft has numerous other impressive and innovative characteristics. It’s part of an initiative called Project Natick, and this is the second phase.
Because the prospect of an underwater data center is still so new, scientists know it’ll bring challenges. They hope this data center will illuminate the possible pitfalls of plunging one into the ocean. The team expects numerous benefits associated with this project too, and they know Project Natick will highlight those. As such, the knowledge gained by people associated with the underwater data center could be instrumental in shaping the future of tech.
Microsoft refers to this project as the Northern Isles data center. It’s close to Scotland’s Orkney Islands, a place notable for the way wind turbines provide the 10,000 residents with 100 percent renewable energy. There are also efforts to tap into tidal energy. Microsoft’s data center benefits from the renewable energy, which is another aspect that indicates how the project keeps the future and sustainability in mind.
As for the structure and contents of the data center, it’s 40 feet long and contains 12 racks with 864 servers. All the equipment is also designed to run for five years without human intervention.
One of the things Microsoft representatives bring up is that these kinds of data centers could eventually help people get reliable internet access.
That’s because most of the world’s population lives within about 120 miles of the coast. Data centers housed under the sea could ensure people living in those coastal communities can use the internet for streaming activities, artificial intelligence applications and more. Because the data wouldn’t travel very far, individuals’ internet activities would likely be speedy and without hiccups.
Some people might understandably wonder if it’s necessary to have an underwater data center. Microsoft is confident about the worth of the project for numerous reasons, one being the likely reduction in expenses associated with it.
No humans work in the data center, which eliminates the cost of employing them to manage it during the data center’s year-long trial.
Moreover, because no windows and doors open and close to cause temperature fluctuations, representatives think they’ll spend significantly less than what’s typical to keep a data center cool enough. They say the data center’s cold-aisle temperature is approximately 53 degrees Fahrenheit and don’t expect it’ll move too far from there throughout operations.
The team also strategically put the data center in an isolated area and removed all the oxygen and most of the water vapor from the atmosphere. The lack of those two things should substantially cut down on corrosion, a problem that often causes equipment to break down sooner than it should. Such a decision was crucial, since it’s not possible for tech support engineers to go into the data center to fix things.
The option to watch the fish gathered around Microsoft’s underwater data center is a welcome addition to the project’s website that’ll undoubtedly enthrall people who appreciate nature.
Hopefully, though, it’ll also encourage people to learn more about Project Natick and why it’s such a pioneering endeavor.
Kayla Matthews writes about data centers and big data for several industry publications, including The Data Center Journal, Data Center Frontier and insideBIGDATA. To read more posts from Kayla, you can follower her personal tech blog at ProductivityBytes.com.