Sinking the Data Center….on Purpose.

Ahoy! What if you could put an entire data center in a submarine and drop it at the bottom of the ocean? The folks at Microsoft and Project Natick said, why not?  This innovative project is now entering its second phase of testing with a large scale model.

So why would anyone think this was a good idea?

Well, there is a vision of operating containerized data centers near major population centers, and it anticipates a highly interactive future requiring data resources located close to users. But, nearly 50% of the world’s population lives near large bodies of water. There is also extreme demand for data center resources across the computing industry. It’s growing exponentially with internet-connected intelligent devices ranging from smartphones to robots, and as corporations increasingly shift their networks and computing needs to the Cloud.

Not that there won’t be challenges…

Power consumption is arguably the highest maintenance cost of any data center.  US data centers alone consumed about 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, representing 2 percent of the country’s total energy consumption. That’s equivalent to the amount consumed by about 6.4 million average American homes in a year.  Much of that power is consumed by just the cooling systems to keep all of those silicon chips humming at top efficiency.  There are few better ways to transfer heat than water so dumping the data center at the bottom of the ocean certainly makes that portion of energy consumption more efficient by cooling the data center without a ton of overhead. The Project Natick crew is also using renewable sources such as wind power and tidal current generators, rendering it a zero carbon footprint entity.

The Natick project is testing out the possibility that data centers can be completely autonomous with connectivity, and power is the only real necessity to manage and operate them. This has a somewhat intended consequence. What could be more secure than the bottom of the sea, right?  Well it’s a great place for preventing hackers from physically accessing your data center, but, conversely, it will be a real pain should there be a need to swap out hardware. That said, the reliability of modern day hardware is to the point that it is nearly disposable. It will age out much sooner than it will actually break.

Just another crazy idea in the long line of crazy ideas we will continue to see in technology. These wild ideas range from having all the world’s information in your pocket, to machines that can recognize and speak with you, to knowing where you are at all times with GPS. Wait…some of those sound familiar.  Until next time, bon voyage!