Microsoft Declares Its Underwater Data Center Test Was A Success

from ars technica

Microsoft retrieved a 40-foot-long, 12-rack, self-contained underwater data center from its seafloor home offshore from the Orkney Islands earlier this summer.

The retrieval of the Northern Isles began the final phase of Microsoft’s Project Natick research initiative, exploring the concept of deploying sealed server pods just offshore major population centers as a replacement for traditional onshore data centers.

Project Natick has been underway for several years; we covered the two-month trial deployment of Leona Philpot, the company’s first underwater server pod, in 2016, and the deployment of the newly retrieved Orkney Isles pod in 2018.

The potential disadvantage of sealed underwater “data centers” is obvious—they must be extremely reliable, since they can’t be serviced on a regular basis. There is a somewhat less intuitive, counterbalancing advantage, of course—they don’t have any pesky humans wandering around inside them, potentially dislodging cables, unplugging things, or otherwise injecting chaos.

More here.

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26 Comments

  1. Microsoft once again found a way to shock me. Microsoft going underwater with computers is simply beyond belief. A decade ago, we got cell phones and computers for the first time. The idea of a laptop was amazing and seeing how you need Wi-Fi to use it was beyond everyone’s expectations. Now with Microsoft going underwater with hard drives that will power the other nations that do not have resources of land accessible is genius. If we take a moment and think about how much space hard drives and software takes up, it is equal to amount of a home for some areas in the world. For instance, at some apartment complexes they have a room specialized for people to go in and fix whatever is going on with there system. With going under water, not only would the technology have to be spot on all the time, but it would have less people going around and messing something up. The picture of how big the mega computer would be going in is pretty large but the benefits behind them is substantial in which I believe in the future we should incorporate more. The perks that they said to underwater was the ability for the computers to cool faster along side having space to work with. The cooling of computer systems we see today can be a pain. I know for me when my computer overheats it takes 10-20 minutes for it to cool down. With the waters already being below a certain degree due to depth, this would allow no system to overheat and break down. Now the issue that could occur is whether a hard drive was to break down it would be a process to get down and fix it. Unlike today, you can call your local company and they can come and fix it on the spot. It is a matter of what would people want to end up happening. Overall, when seeing this article, I thought how there is more perks to having technology move underwater then disadvantages. Not only would we be gaining more space with the environment, but we would also have the advantage of helping solar, air, and pollution at the same time.

  2. I was really thrilled after I read the article. It made me realize that there is hope that WIFI connections can also exist underwater. This will help to present many types of benefits to technology as well as to the environment. I feel that this will promote revenue to Microsoft. It will also promote job opportunities in manufacturing computers and will boost satisfaction for people.

  3. The Earth is over 75% water, with most of this water being the worlds oceans. Understanding that there is more water than land helps us to realize that there are so many untapped resources in the water. Not only are there so many untapped resources, but the amount of space we have to utilize in the worlds oceans is enormous. Microsoft has been doing this on a small level, by using underwater cells to store data. This means that they put a self-contained data center, on the ocean bed that allows people that live on the shore to have better data storage. Since 50% of us live on shores, this is a more useful way to open up servers on the coast as well as faster email and file sharing. These data centers that have been implemented by Microsoft do have one fatal flaw, this flaw would be that they have to be made extremely reliable to even function properly. On the other hand, one good thing about this new development is that they don’t require the use of humans, who usually walk through these data centers to ensure everything is working properly. Sometimes humans can error, or risk damaging the servers. What I found very interesting about this whole ordeal, is the video that showed how they actually take the server our of the water. They have this crane that is on the port near the shore, and they use it to swoop down with chains, to take out the data center. Overall, I guess I am a big nerd for Microsoft so I did find this article pretty interesting. I feel that if we can start to utilize the water more efficiently, without damaging the environment. We can move towards a better society.

  4. I recall reading about Microsoft deploying an underwater server system as a trial a few years back, although at the time I didn’t think much of the project. Many in comments and responses were quick to dismiss the benefits with claims of unreliability and risk, however, the years passed and I had not seen mention of the servers again. I had assumed they were either deemed economically unviable or had been compromised over time. In the case of future-forward technology initiatives, no news is usually bad news. But lo and behold it seem Microsoft has once again found a novel innovation to add to its already extensive repertoire of transcendent developments. The article presents direct quotes from scientists who are still in the process of analyzing and inspecting the server pod and mention good news on multiple fronts. Particularly, the result that the Pod had maintained perfect integrity throughout the two-year stay and that the dry nitrogen inside was relatively unaffected by its time underwater is indicative of the success that the project has achieved.
    The idea itself clearly has its benefits including free cooling and localized server groups, but I think the optimistic observers of two years ago would not have expected the level of positive results achieved by the experiment. Not only did it succeed but may pave the way for the future of localized unmanned server pods instead of the cramped and hot server center of today. One of the unanticipated results was the lower than average (and expected) failure rate of the server racks within the pod. This surprised me for a number of reasons. I’ve always thought of server groups as maintenance-intensive pieces of technology due to the mission-critical nature of their functionality. Compounding failures of drives or processing units would cause chaos. While I am surprised that the failure rate of sunken and contained servers was low, the article’s explanation does make a lot of sense, but then again, hindsight is 20/20. While it mentions that humans may be the cause of some percentage of failures by jostling racks and bumping cables, I think of the biggest contributors to the lower failure rate probably had to do with the consistent operating temperatures of the pod environment. Not simply because of the seawater cooling that had been evaluated already but because of the lack of dust and circulations of that dust through the server racks. In most cases I have seen referenced, heat is one of the biggest contributors to hardware failure in computer and chip-based systems, usually becoming a bigger issue as the components become older. However, as anyone who has dealt with computers in normal office environments would know, the cooling hardware itself is usually not to blame, but rather the dust that accumulates in the equipment. Humans and our activities generate a huge amount of dust (organic or otherwise), and dust is a huge player in decreasing cooling efficiency. I believe this may have been a big contributor to the low failure rate, however, it is not mentioned in the article explicitly.
    Interestingly, I feel that the reliability of the systems is an even more important achievement than the utility of the system location. Physical security is guaranteed by the environment and the only limitations of implementation are geographic proximity to large bodies of water. I do have to say though, I would be very concerned implementing these systems in the gulf or on the east coast where hurricanes would be able to not only knock out electricity and utilities but also potentially critical data centers. I am curious about solutions Microsoft may be experimenting with to mitigate the potential for storm damage or underwater earthquakes. It makes me question whether these systems could ever fully serve the primary data needs of a market without extensive backup infrastructure in place. I think only time will tell whether this new concept for data centers will be a viable addition (or alternative) to current best practices. I think the savings due to nearly free cooling are beneficial enough to put a lot more time and money into the project and after seeing the results of this two-year experiment in the article, it seems that the reliability cost savings could also be a major factor in future project investment. I feel that Microsoft has shown the future of data centers (at least near water sources) may just lie underwater.

  5. Unlike Brody Siekmann above, I have not heard of this idea for the likes of data storage, which also means I have not heard of negative comments and the distaste for such a project. I for one, seem to like this idea and support it as there are many opportunities that arise for the future of how we do things as a species. This article contains many facts that will serve as “good news” and show how others can go down a greener path. The author, Jim Salter, gives a very good description without adding too much opinion to skew or sway the results of the project—there was already a multitude of positive results surrounding the end of the project, where it would be a weak standpoint to say there are overall negative results. I took away three big points from this article and each can be made into a positive future outlook.
    I see potential everyday for companies to go green, but they do not do so due to financials or unwillingness to change. The ease it would take for some of these multi-billion dollar companies and yet they stick to their guns to stick with no change. My first point is how Microsoft has the potential to really make a big change for the better. Microsoft has some projects that they could slap a “GREEN” label on, but the data storage project is a gateway to so much more that will not only be green, it will further endorse other projects to use sustainable and renewable energy. This includes projects from other companies as well with the mentality “well if Microsoft can do it, so can I”. Wind, water, and the sun, it seems so simple to drop all that we stand by today and switch to these resources that are standing free and tall, waiting to be used. If Microsoft were to switch to these resources, slowly but surely, they could become a world leader and pioneer of easier ways to acquire and generate electricity. Back to the article, though, all they need is one wind turbine and a couple wave turbines and they are good to run for two years, plus the entire town is not affected and still get their electricity. An idea for Microsoft would be to make not just these pods, but the wind turbine itself, that way they can power an entire farm of data storage, with the entirety of ownership in Microsoft’s name. The legality of a full on project like this would probably change as time goes on, with more and more companies joining the bandwagon, as it would either be more or less proven that it works and is safe for not only humans, but the environment.
    Many people hold a special disdain towards big businesses and the land they own, in part because of how the land is used. Given the choice, I think most people would not wanna have a huge power grid, giant building, large parking lot, and similar structures in their back yard or across the street. With that being said, to have these data storage pods submerged and out of sight would have a much better marketing response from the general public, in my opinion. The author includes the fact that the pod could support 864 servers inside with no problem, especially since there would not be humans tripping and bumping into them. To have one dozen of these pods together would equate to a small data center, which to me sounds really fascinating—there are a few million data centers around the United States alone. There is a good amount of visible land devoted to these centers and most must be of larger size proportionally to that of the pods as they are made so humans can walk around. Out of sight and out of mind, while functioning at full capacity, may be the next big thing for companies such as Microsoft. In terms of ownership, a company cannot own parts of the ocean, per say, but they may be able to own parts of the land along the ocean and depending on what laws they follow they may be able to have a privatized area of waterway. On top of this, there are different ways to apply and obtain permits for research and projects that may even be sponsored by a government. Microsoft has the chance to stay in the frontrunner’s seat when it comes to who has permission to perform this way for business affairs.
    Another aspect people will look at after reading this article is the environmental effects to the ecosystem. Although brief, Salter mentions the barnacles, algae, and anemones that found the pod to be a fitting home. Some would read this one line and be appalled for endangering animals by introducing a foreign object only to remove it and disturb those who became accustomed to it. While this is a small issue for Microsoft and many others, it could play into their favor. This particular pod, Leona Philpot, was destined to come back to the surface as part of the trial it was in. For the future, though, what if these pods were permanent? On top of that, what if these pods’ had an exterior design to house fish and the likes of? Microsoft could create or even enhance current ecosystems by designing the pods to fit into natural habitats. This is done all the time with decommissioned vehicles and large objects. Artificial reefs are made and ecosystems thrive. This could be one in the same with the pods, as long as Microsoft follows Title 33 U.S. Code Section 2103 (if done within the United States).
    These are the ideas and conclusions I came to after Jim Salter’s article, and I believe many other companies can follow suit. We as a species have hardly navigated the ocean floors and much is considered empty space, so we could venture on and if done properly, can add our structures down below the surface. Microsoft is merely scratching the surface of numerous possibilities and if they play their cards right may be able to stay in that position for the foreseeable future.

    Works Cited

    Clark, J. Who Owns the Oceans? Retrieved September 24, 2020 from https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/10-facts-know-about-data-centers#:~:text=There%20are%20about%203%20million,the%20internet%E2%80%94at%20big%20costs.

    33 U.S. Code § 2103, Pub. L. 98–623, title II, §?204, Nov. 8, 1984, 98 Stat. 3395.
    https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/33/2103

    Vargas, M. (2014, November 17). 10 Facts to Know About Data Centers. Retrieved September 24. 2020 from https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/10-facts-know-about-data-centers#:~:text=There%20are%20about%203%20million,the%20internet%E2% 80%94at%20big%20costs.

  6. First off, the idea of an underwater data system is a very interesting concept and one that I have not even thought of it. It is very smart for Microsoft to be working on a project like Project Natick, their research initiative because they must do things to stay ahead of their competition. I would imagine that there are a lot of issues that they must consider before they even deploy an object like this because it is not something that could be serviced easily. There had to be some really smart developers in charge of this to minimize the doubt in the project. On the flip side of them not being able to be serviced easily, it would be difficult to tamper with them. That is one aspect that is very beneficial to companies, especially the ones who have dealt with data tampering before. Another interesting aspect that I did not consider was the fact that the underwater pods do not require commercial real estate, and they nearly get free cooling from the tons of seawater that surrounds it. Rent, lease, mortgages, and other contracts are often involved when a business or company falls apart and the elimination of some of that by being underwater is a brilliant idea. Along with that, they are speeding up the process while also simplifying it and saving money, it does not get better than that. This is such an innovative way for them to use their resources around them and create something that will propel them above their competition. The research that went into this had to be very detailed. If they executed this poorly and a lot of data was lost due to water damage that would be detrimental. To be honest, I am not surprised that it turned out to be a success because some very smart and talented people are in this world who would be able to make it happen. Another benefit of this underwater data center would be how this would positively affect the environment. In the article, it says that the pods could even be powered with light wind conditions. This was a very amazing product to create and I think that it is something that will become more popular in the future as more companies find success with it.

  7. Underwater data centers and computers seem like an idea out of early 20th century science fiction. In today’s extremely connected world, it turns out to be the next logical step, at least for Microsoft. I understand the want for underwater data centers, but I am worried about the practicality of it. If the trends of computing continue, I only see underwater data centers multiplying like rabbits. According to Intel’s co-founder, Gordon Moore, “the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every two years, though the cost of computers is halved.” This is known as Moore’s Law. Taking this into account, it would be in Microsoft’s best interest to continue utilizing underwater data centers in the future. As more and more companies start using this kind of technology, how long until our planet’s water becomes too crowded by data centers? Could underwater computer housing like this cause enough displacement of water that sea level would noticeably rise? This could not only be an ethical issue but an environmental one. If data centers become common underwater, how long until the undersea environment is completely crowded? When things become too crowded on land, little may be done about it, however, people tend to notice. If it is underwater, though, there will be less passive monitoring and it would be much easier to get away with overutilization of space.

  8. I had never heard of this idea from Microsoft until I read this article. Obviously when you are talking about data centers you are talking about technology with a lot of sensitive information stored in it. When you think of technology you normally try and avoid water for obvious reasons. The fact that Microsoft was able to make a data center underwater and have it work better than their on land data centers is insane to me. As the article pointed out they must be extremely reliable because they can not be serviced as easily. I can’t even imagine the amount of time and planning a project like this took. There are so many things that need to be planned out for a project like this. First of all you have to be able to transport it to the seafloor and back, safely, and without damaging any of the parts of the data center. You also need to make sure that the data center does not get destroyed by the ocean. All of the things that live in the ocean and the oceans currents could easily destroy technology like that. It has to be well built and very durable to be able to stay in the ocean for two years. The article said that waves can reach 60 feet or more and tidal currents peak at 9 miles per hour. That requires a lot of innovative engineering and well built technology.

    I was also surprised to hear about all the advantages to the data center. The human aspect is completely take out of the equation with a seafloor data center. As the article pointed out you don’t have to worry about humans knocking cables out or messing with things. The other advantage that I didn’t think of was the cooling aspect of it. You don’t really need a cooling aspect to a data center when it is placed in the ocean. It is also much cheaper than an on land data center which I also did not realize. Data centers need expensive real estate and the ocean does not have that problem. Obviously the data center was also extremely efficient only crashing at 1/8 the rate of a normal data center. The fact that Microsoft was able to pull a project off this well is extremely innovative and impressive. I believe that this is just going to pave the way for future companies to follow Microsoft with underwater projects nd this will be much more common going forward.

  9. At first glance at this article I was immediately interested in what it had in store. I know a lot about technology and figured this would be a good interesting read for me. Right when I began to read, I thought of the question, why? We have perfectly fine data centers above the water that work completely well. Why would Microsoft spend their money to try and transfer them to the bottom of the ocean? That is why I continued reading. My first thought was that they were doing this to save space on land, but that did not make sense since the data centers are only like 40 feet long. After I continued reading, I realized that these data centers are being put right offshore, not that far off from land. The purpose of these offshore data center is that they in essence put the centers in closer proximity than others in the past. As with anything, these new offshore data centers have their ups and downs. The obvious downside to these is that they must be very reliable. This is because there cannot be maintenance to them because they are on the bottom of the ocean. Other than that, though there are not any other downsides. The upsides of the new placement of these servers are, “Seafloor-based pods don’t require expensive commercial real estate, and they get nearly free cooling from the surrounding tons of seawater. The logistic advantage may be even more important than the cooling or immediate financial one. It takes significant time and specialized effort to acquire and develop commercial real estate for a traditional data center in a major city—building a sealed pod and deploying it on the seafloor nearby should be considerably simpler and faster.” In all after reading this article I am extremely surprised at how these have come to be. I would have never thought that a company would use sea floor as real estate to place their servers. This could be a start to a new wave of placing things on the bottom of the ocean. My biggest concern about this is that yes as of right now it is one 40-foot capsule, but in the future how many companies will follow. This could not only be the start of a new place to store data servers, but I feel this may pollute the ocean more than we already have. The bottom of the ocean could be lined with these capsules in the future. Overall, I think this invention is very cool and innovative but, in the future, I am worried about how many will be transferred.

  10. Traditional data centers that hold cloud services for Microsoft customers may soon be replaced with underwater data pods. Microsoft recently declared that its underwater data center was a success. In 2016, Microsoft hired Naval Group, a defense and renewable marine energy contractor and Green Marine, a marine engineering operation firm, to deploy The Northern Isles underwater data pod. The data center was comprised of a 40-foot, 12 rack, 864 servers, sealed inside of a pod filled with dry nitrogen and placed underwater, on the sea floor. Named Project Natick, the sealed pod was placed in the Orkney Isles which is an island off the north coast of mainland Scotland. An area known with a tidal peak average of 9 miles per hours and storm waves over 60 feet was a perfect test site to teas the durability of the project. The pod was retrieved in 2018 using robots and winches between the pontoon of a gantry barge with two supporting beams to tow The Northern Isles back to land. Once on land and before removing the data center from the pod, air samples were taken by Microsoft researchers for analysis. Although the test failed at a rate of 1/8th compared to a traditional data center on land. Microsoft concluded that the failure was due to the sealed, inert nitrogen atmosphere that the pod was pressurized with before being placed on the floor of the sea. Despite the data centers not being as productive in the sea compared to the traditional setting, the project was considered a success due to logistical and financial advantages. The project makes an underwater data center a simpler and faster option than purchasing land and developing commercial real estate in major cities. The immediate financial advantage is utilizing the low cost of placing the data center on the ocean sea floor. The only drawback would be that the pod must be extremely reliable since the equipment is expensive and cannot be serviced regularly. In addition, the surrounding sea water keeps the pods cool naturally. Therefore, Microsoft will not have to pay exorbitant amount of money to install cooling systems within the pods. An environmental benefit is that freshwater resources vital to humans and wildlife is untapped. More importantly, these pods can be placed on the sea floors near major population centers and are more feasible in a greener, more sustainable power initiative beneficial to our environment.

  11. Recently Microsoft announced that its test of an experimental underwater data center has been a success. The potential to implement this on a bigger scale in the future has large benefits. The article lists several benefits such as more economical cooling, less expensive real estate, and failed at one-eighth the rate of regular data center servers. Data centers generate a lot of heat especially data centers which have been constructed with Hard Disk Drives rather than Solid State Drives. Hard Disk Drives are hard drives used to store data and many server farms are built with them because they are much cheaper per terabyte than their Solid State Drive counterparts. Solid State Drives are more expensive per terabyte, but have many more advantages than Hard Disk Drives such as being much faster and having no moving parts. Solid State Drives having no moving parts means no friction and less heat generated. Solid State Drives when combined with the cooling effect of being in an underwater data center such as the one that Microsoft just tested the data center the cost of cooling could actually be negated completely or come very close to it.
    To create a data center there is a high cost and time requirement to purchase commercial land and then convert it to land that can be used for a data center. However, with the potential for underwater data centers there is now much more real estate available. With over 70% of the Earth being covered by water and that water now being usable real estate that means the available real estate for data centers just increased from a very small amount to an extremely large amount. This will also lower the cost with their being such a large supply and will make it cheaper to create data centers. This will become especially important as more and more data centers are needed since technology keeps advancing exponentially.
    What might be most important about this test is that the servers failed at one-eighth the rate of a traditional data center. Solid State Drives fail after around 6 years and Hard Disk Drives fail anywhere between 5 and 7 years, so both types of servers fail around 6 years. Since the servers in the underwater data center failed at one-eighth this rate that means hard disk drives could last anywhere from 40 to 56 years and Solid State Drives could last 48 years. The article attributes this to the data center being filled with dry nitrogen so there was no oxidization of servers and no humidity resulting in no chemical degradation. This would be especially helpful since maintenance on an underwater data center will be very difficult to perform. The longer the drives are operational means that the data centers will have significantly lower costs.

  12. There it is again… Microsoft finds always a way to make the world’s better, and they always shock the population! This is just unbelievable how they found a way to use spaces where people cannot live in to do better business. When normal people think about servers, they always think about something abstract, or they do not think that a server is actually big and there must be a server for each user that is present on social media. I have watched a documentary that talks about the maintenance of a big social media company such as Instagram. A server represents a user; so if you consider that Instagram has over 1 billion active users, this means that Instagram has at least 1 billion servers. A server is big as a book, so Instagram needs to have a space big to contain and to maintain 1 billion servers. The space that those servers occupy is enormous. This space can be used to build new offices, new houses, and new businesses, but servers are occupying that space. However, servers need maintenance almost every day since they have electronic parts that can break consistently. Microsoft has found out a new way that can solve many problems. They searched a space that is not available for human use, in fact, they started to place the servers underneath the water. Those servers are less accessible than the others, so they have made them in a way that they require less maintenance as possible, so humans do not need to take action consistently. Microsoft as a company can be categorized as one of the most important for problem-solving in the world since they always find a solution to any problem. However, in my opinion, I do not think that the world is ready to go underneath the water, since it would require higher costs and higher time-response. Servers are important for businesses since if they break, they would lead to a daily consistent money loss. Furthermore, servers have to be substituted immediately when they break down. Microsoft would need more time to figure out how to create a perfect maintainance system.

  13. Amidst all of the chaos today’s world revolves around, it is refreshing to read a news story that has little to no negative impact on world affairs. In this instance, Microsoft yet again displays the impressive mind power that is possessed by the developers within the company. The location of servers is not an aspect of technology that crosses my mind in my daily affairs, and even if it were, this is not a possibility I would have considered. I believe that the use of underwater server pods is a genius idea, and one that comes with little drawbacks.

    Although, as Salter states, there is one glaring drawback to the underwater pods. Having the servers submerged under miles of ocean water creates an issue if any need for maintenance occurs. Obviously, it would already be difficult to nearly impossible for a human to make their way down to the pod, but filling it with dry nitrogen makes the pods further uninhabitable. This means that if the servers begin to fail drastically, or if maintenance needs to be performed, the pod would have to be retrieved. This becomes problematic when taken into consideration what Slater points out about the process of retrieving the pod. Needing the right weather conditions limits the time windows of when the pod can be retrieved. This along with the fact that actually retrieving the pod is almost a day-long process would make it very difficult to effectively amend any issues that may occur. To add to this, returning the pod to its underwater position would require another full day with calm weather.

    Despite this one glaring drawback, the positives are numerous, and arguably outweigh the negative. The first positive being the flipside of the negative already outweighs the drawbacks. The servers can run with no human interference, such as: accidental messing with wires, and comfortable work environments interfering with the condition of the servers. One possible human interference that the article did not seem to address is the possibility of malicious interference. Although, I’m sure most on-land server rooms are secure and heavily protected, which may be why the author did not consider this. These factors likely explain why the servers failed far less frequently than traditional servers on land. In my opinion, the more important positives are the ones that involve the effect that using underwater server pods can have on the environment. The surrounding seawater essentially eliminating the need for manual cooling of the servers is a huge deal, for it greatly reduces the amount of energy needed to keep the servers from overheating. Moving servers underwater will also eliminate other energy needs that an on-land server room would have, such as lighting. Using wind farms to power the servers is also a great way to create an environmentally friendly operation. The ability to cut down on real estate needed to house servers is also great for reducing costs and preserving land for other uses.

    I see no reason for other companies to join Microsoft in taking advantage of underwater server pods. The advantages show an obvious cost effectiveness, and it is far better for the environment to use them. If there are two concepts that are crucial in today’s business world, they are cutting costs and creating environmentally friendly operations. Frankly, it makes sense to begin moving servers to the bottom of the ocean, for available land is beginning to run out, but most of the ocean floor remains unexplored. Perhaps these server pods can be the next step in discovering more of our planet, while helping save it at the same time.

  14. This article is very interesting because having data centers under water could be viewed by some as pointless and a waste of resources but after reading the article, it seems that it could work out. When you think about it, the world is 71 percent of the world, and with overpopulation a problem of the future, it makes sense for companies to expand to the water like what microsoft is doing. My one concern with expanding into the water is the possibility of hurting the environment, but in the article it makes it clear that it would not be harmful to the environment and the ocean life. Especially since the data center is being powered by wind, solar and other green power sources that help the environment. Now after reading this, it made me think about the other possibilities and what other companies could do by expanding into the ocean or by putting data centers in water. With cooling units being irrelevant because of the data center getting cooled by the surrounding sea water, microsoft was able to save some money. Also because the data center is away from people, nobody can go in and mess with it or accidentally cause a problem with it, ultimately saving money on repairs. So why wouldn’t other companies want to replicate this. It seems like there is little that can go wrong and it saves space in warehouses where data centers could be kept. But what else could be kept under water like this? What about actually storage? What if Amazon were to have a similar idea as the underwater data center,but with actual products. That way they do not need to pay for a warehouse and the products are kept in an undisclosed location where nobody could get to it without the proper equipment. That being said a data center can be left unattended for a long period of time, if Amazon were to do an underwater warehouse, they would have to find and develop a way to get the product from being underwater in a timely manner that does not consume resources. Lastly this article made me realize that there are tons or smart people out there who can save companies a lot of money with just one idea, like the underwater data center.

  15. One of the most used/known billion dollar companies is Microsoft. They are always thinking of news ways to improve their technology. For example under water server pods. That is a very brilliant idea due to the fact that some technology can’t work under water and it can damage many expensive things that we use on a everyday basis. Although they may have a struggle with the way it works and the way it may function, they have enough money to make a plan work. Somethings that may have problems with are how well it can be functional able under water, will it have water damage or will it stop working after just a tad bit of water touches it. What are you going to do when it breaks or is damaged. You can’t take another one of the same exact server because the same thing will happen and it will be a waste of money. Then after the first one breaks you will need to figure out the correct steps of taking to making the item water proof. Even though it says its water proof, doesn’t mean its really ” water proof” also it can be damaged if you use it in water too much or if its in water for a long period of time. I like the fact that Microsoft is always expanding their technology and visual to make new things and always be able to make more money and expand their value of products. I think It would be a good test, or something that would be trending for a couple of months, to see if people will really buy the product it will be good for Microsoft. Also insurance would play a huge roll because of the way how much damaged items it would take to repair or find the right cost due to the fact that one try may not pass the test to be put out in stores and commercialize it. Also they will need to find a good connection due to the fact that some peoples phones don’t work when either at sea or even at the beach, so it wouldn’t have connection when its under water, so they would have to do something about having connection, just in case something happens down at see. so as you can see there are pros and cons with doing a project like this and making sure that the plan works along and also stays stable enough to work and sell in stores

  16. The title of this article is shocking and is what grabbed my attention to read it. I have always grown up with technology, but it has been rapidly improving over my life. Desktop computers turned into laptops and flip phones have turned into touchscreen phones with advanced internet capabilities. However, one thing that has remained constant about technology through the years is that it is not friends with water. Dropping your phone into water or spilling a drink on your laptop is enough to ruin the whole thing and leave the device useless. This is why I was shocked to hear that Microsoft has had a functioning data center under water for 2 years. This is a huge breakthrough for data centers and technological advancements. Underwater centers could be placed offshores of busy cities where commercial real estate is not abundantly available and aid in greatly improving Wi-Fi for the people. Not having to take on the costs of the space and construction, as well as not needing tot pay for cooling, underwater data centers can greatly cut costs. Data centers can cost thousands per month for leasing the space and colling systems to keep the devices at a functioning temperature but putting the center under water will save all that money annually. The water will act as a natural coolant for the centers and the space on the seafloor is unused as it is. This will then open up real estate for other business or possibly homes and could benefit people in the cities. Along with this the money saved could be used to continue improving Wi-Fi and internet service while also advancing the technology that we use. The servers would have to very carefully developed as they can not be easily accessed under the water. However, being underwater there is little to mess with the connections and no people to cause problems or mess something up. As long as the pods are truly waterproof this is a great alternative to traditional data centers and could provide great benefits in the future.

  17. This article’s headline brought two questions to my mind. The first one: how? How have we come so far with our technological advances that we are able to successfully have an underwater data center? It is just an amazing technological era we live in that never ceases to advance further. Once I got past the pure amazement of the headline I read, I was left with one other question: why? Why would we need underwater data centers? What are the benefits to having these centers underwater? I think this article did a great job explaining both the advantages as well as the potential disadvantages of these underwater data centers. I also think it did a great job in explaining how the advantages significantly outweigh the disadvantages that may come with these underwater centers. The greatest advantage they cite is that “It takes significant time and specialized effort to acquire and develop commercial real estate for a traditional data center in a major city—building a sealed pod and deploying it on the seafloor nearby should be considerably simpler and faster.” I think that this makes it a no brainer to explore the possibilities considering that it would be easier and faster than the methods that are currently employed. The article then describes the sustainability and effectiveness of the test center, which is the most important factor. Since this test center proved to be both sustainable and effective, as well as it being simpler and quicker than current centers, this can be a massive innovation in technology today. Overall, this article still just leaves me in awe. I had never thought about the possibility of exploring our oceans for extra acreage that can actually be used by different technical companies. There is still plenty of unexplored real estate when you consider the possibility of expanding underwater. Because of this potential (cheaper) real estate, I think companies will continue to look to develop ways to be able to safely explore the depths of the oceans with technology. It seems to me as though technology is developing at a higher rate currently than ever before, and this latest development is further proof of that.

  18. Microsoft is one of the biggest technology companies in the world. They have introduced us to many great things that in this day and age, we couldn’t live without them. A little over a decade ago, the world was being introduced to the widespread use and popularity of smart phones and laptops. Today we are being told that Microsoft is successfully taking sealed data centers underwater and it is astonishing to see how far and fast technology is advancing.

    In the article, it is stated that there are many benefits to having data centers underwater as opposed to above water because it solves many problems companies have to face. The biggest problems that many companies face, especially in cities such as New York City, is finding real estate that can house traditional data centers. Not only is it hard to find real estate in places such as New York City, but it is also going to come at a very expensive price. Another advantage to underwater data centers would be the utilization of the seawater. The seawater would be effective in being used as a cooling aid. Underwater pods would also eliminate the factor of human faults, potentially dislodging cables or unplugging things.

    But the biggest downside to having data centers would be they could not be accessed for regular maintenance. This would mean that they would have to be extremely reliable since it takes a full day of full day of careful work involving robots and winches. The project of trial development for underwater data centers has been going on for 2 years. Although it has been claimed to be successful, I think Microsoft needs to take a few more years for further testing in different conditions to fully ensure companies that their server pods are going to be reliable and durable to handle their data centers. Overall, I think this technology is very useful and provides great value to companies that are near great sources of water. Not only does it benefit companies, but it also gains space for real estate and decreases air pollutants that are emitted by traditional data centers.

  19. As the days go on, humankind is constantly evolving. Instead of a physical evolution, we are going through a technological evolution. Since the Industrial Revolution, the technological growth has grown exponentially on a global scale. In the small span of 200-300 years, we have grown greatly in terms of transportation, communication, energy, and much more. We have revolutionized our forms of transportation, communication, and energy. For instance, we now travel at speeds never thought possible. We soar through the skies on planes and dive deep in the oceans in submarines. We have technology capable of generating electricity with sources like wind, flowing water, and the sun. And today, we each carry a supercomputer in our pockets ready to answer any question we have about any topic, a device that can play any song, take pictures, and find a way to get anywhere we choose with the powers of GPS. Not to mention that this device can be used to communicate with people around the world in an instant. Recently, we have seen yet another technological feat, thanks to the large corporation Microsoft. To reduce latency and improve cloud services by moving them closer to consumers, Microsoft has decided to incorporate the use of underwater pods that contain 40 foot long, 12 rack data centers. When I first encountered this article, I thought, “why would they put a data center underwater?” My first thought was that it would improve data reception amongst nautical travelers, but this also seemed like a waste for such a small amount of users that travel nautically. What I found out is that these underwater data pods contribute to the overall efficiency of the cloud. They use seawater as a cooling agent, don’t cost money in expensive real estate, and are spared from negative human intervention. This is something that I had never thought of. On top of this, I think this is the start to an underwater revolution in which companies like Microsoft have these underwater data pods all around the globe. What I also find interesting is that the Northern Isles, the name of the underwater pod which was tested, was powered entirely through wind turbines. This method of energy usage is sustainable and promotes a cleaner world. I am very excited to see how these technology systems will work together in the future and promote a smarter and cleaner world.

  20. Microsoft’s innovative efforts on this project are phenomenal. Having a data center underwater is something I never imagined, and I’m even more shocked to hear that it was successful. As described in the article, having an underwater data center requires that the technology be self-sustainable, and require very little maintenance work and human operation due to the lengthy and dangerous process to reach the centers out in the ocean. Developing that type of technology takes years of research and tests, and even more funding, which Microsoft has no issue with. The failure rate of these data centers is also substantially low than those operated by humans, which is another interesting note. Thinking about the future, there may never be human-run data centers again.

    I also found it interesting that these data centers were so sustainable. Corporate Social Responsibility is a major part of business operations today, and creating these underwater data centers was a major step in sustainability efforts not only for Microsoft, but for the future of technology as well. This data center fully operated on green energy, something that very few things can do today. With so much talk about protecting our environment, this is a crucial step in understanding that green energy is sufficient. The temperature of the seawater also allowed for a cooling affect, eliminating the need of any traditional cooling system that is not only expensive, but harmful to the environment.

    It will be interesting to see how other technology companies will react to Microsoft’s success. With so many advantages, I believe many other companies will begin designing their own version of underwater data centers, and I’m interested to see the results. If this idea were to take off, and traditional data centers on land were eliminated and shifted to an underwater setting, I wonder what the affects will be for the ocean and marine life. Could this potentially be damaging to the seafloor, and in turn disturb the marine ecosystem? I think this will be a key factor for the technology industry to evaluate when looking at underwater data centers.

  21. Microsoft has yet again propelled themselves ahead of their competition by employing the use of underwater data centers. The use of this new technology is incredibly innovative, as no other company has attempted to take this risk. The risk of failure for this technology surprised me; the risk for failure for underwater data centers is one eighth of the risk of having data centers erected in a traditional manner. It seems as though there would be many flaws in building structures for the ocean, such as storms, leaks, or animals tampering with the structure or equipment. However, with proper planning and execution, those flaws can be controlled and minimized. The risk for failure is also lessened by not keeping people underwater and involving them in the maintenance of the data centers. No one is tripping over wires, unplugging things, or putting themselves into a position that could be detrimental to the functionality of the structure.

    It was interesting to read that the data centers are considered to be more sustainable technology. Light winds would be enough to power the pods and the data centers are cooled by the ocean water, which allow for less energy to be used to maintain the structure. Using the salt water from the oceans to cool the data centers will also leave freshwater resources unexploited so that they can be used for other necessary purposes for both humans and wildlife.

    Without the cost of rent, leasing, mortgages, or other contracts that are usually involved when setting up a traditional data center, these underwater centers will save a great quantity of money which will enable the company to produce a greater amount of these data centers in the future. Building the data centers underwater was not only a brilliant course of action for progressing to a more sustainable environment, but it also was a great course of action financially, as the company will consequently take on less liabilities for their business endeavors. I hope that this product gains more traction and, in the future, society will see a new norm of technology being both more sustainable and financially efficient.

  22. I found this article to be such a fantastic read as it just shows how those companies at the forefront of innovation such as one like Microsoft can really work to create such an idea that possibly in years past would have been scoffed at. As humans, we’ve explored only about 20% of the ocean, and it’s foolish to think that there isn’t an additional purpose that this vast amount of area could serve us. Reading into the article there are numerous benefits that Microsoft has been able to find as a result of this experiment such as free cooling from the ocean’s cool temperature, lack of human interaction that allows the servers to last much longer, and a much higher success rate than the human-run data centers. I think with substantially more testing done to analyze the effects on the environment and in different locations could help further this experiment and propel it to many new heights.

    Personally, I think the next course of action would have to be testing these centers in both heavier populated cities and running on different power sources. The article stated the first control test was done in the Northern Isles and was running on 100% clean energy. These in and of themselves are two factors that can contribute to a successful test. I think the next step would be putting it on a power grid that isn’t just clean energy so at least then it gives us a good measure for what the system can do powered by what all the rest of us use for power. Then the next step would have to be putting them and testing them out in much higher populated areas where internet traffic is substantially higher. I think this will be the true test for this technology because if it can handle the massive amounts of data usage in major cities then I feel it would be a hit.

    Microsoft is already a massive company and with projects like this, I think they are going to continue to make the lives of all of us much easier. This idea still has some kinks to work out but when Microsoft gets this right, it’s going to completely change things around in the tech world. Just imagine a massive submerged data center in the Hudson River or in the River Thames that can supply this seemingly endless amount of data for these huge cities. Like I stated it will take some time but when Microsoft gets this right, its gonna be amazing to see where the tech world will head.

  23. Microsoft is one of the most innovative companies of all-time. From the Altair 8800, the first ever “microcomputer” Microsoft ever invented, which is now known as a personal laptop, to new devices and hardware. We have evolved so much within the last 50 years, and Microsoft continues to raise the bar and set new standards. They also have new ideas and perspectives that open opportunity for completely new ideas and could change how the world is run. It is absolutely amazing to me how they dominate so many different fields as well. When it comes to technology, Microsoft has big time products across the board. Microsoft’s newest project has been an underwater data center offshore from the Orkney Islands in Scotland. The plan for this idea is to have these data centers underwater rather than having them on land. These data bases contribute to the overall efficiency of the cloud and how it is run. The more data bases there are the better and more efficient this will be which is a great thing. Now of course, like everything, there are pros and cons to this big idea. The first problem is that since these data bases will not be easily accessible because they are underwater, they must be reliable, and be run very well. This is no easy feat, and that alone could cause major problems for this idea. The counter to that makes a strong case too. Since these data bases will not be on land and accessible, there will be less people that could possibly remove plugs or dislodge cables which could end up causing huge problems when it comes to backing up your phone and having backed up, saved data.
    I personally love the direction that Microsoft is going for the company itself, but there is another huge issue that people do not realize. Like I stated before, people would be running these data centers that are on land. If they are moved underwater, these workers will not be needed, at least not as frequently. And this ties back to a big issue that we have been dealing for a couple decades. Automation. More and more jobs will be taken from people and more and more automated methods will be prevalent as companies get smarter and smarter. Although I think this is a great idea, for the greater good for the people, I think having employees keep their jobs is better.

  24. Underwater data centers are the definition of thinking outside the box. In my opinion, I am all for it. Now that internet is part of every aspect of our lives, and that it will probably continue to increase, data centers are crucial to holding the world together. Not having data centers or failing data centers can essentially stop the world in its tracks. Microsoft exploring the possibility of underwater data centers essentially fixes all of these problems. While I am in support of all of the benefits, I think that this should be approached with caution. Microsoft seems to share my view as well because of the extensive research and time they have taken with Project Natick. Because while these underwater data centers seem more efficient and cost effective, one little mistake can destroy an entire center. The pods have to be sealed to a point where they will not break over decades, because these centers cannot be serviced. The centers itself have to be 100% operational and not be tampered with because again, these centers cannot be serviced easily. The real breakthrough would be coming up with a way to adjust the center remotely or while swimming on the outside of the center without having to spend a full day extracting the center. All of the benefits could also be seen as liabilities. Without all of the human contact, it is shown that mistakes have dropped drastically. On the other hand, there are that many less jobs for people with those skills. Data centers provide an abundance of jobs and making it online would take away from that. Another downfall is that we do not know what the limit of these sealed pods are. What is a tsunami going over a data center near Japan, or a hurricane in the gulf messed with any there? The ocean is very unpredictable and that can lead to billions of dollars lost on these centers. On the flip side it makes so much fiscal sense. Capitalism is great, but that makes commercial land very expensive, especially near cities where these centers need to be located. Avoiding these negotiations and simply locating the bases underwater cut out those costs, along with the energy and cooling costs as mentioned. The only problem is putting all your eggs in one basket, if it does not work out then every bodies cloud and internet storage will be gone, and the results of that event will most likely not be desirable.

  25. This is a very interesting development in technology. The same way vertical farms were introduced in some cities, underwater data may be an innovative way to conserve space while still offering the same services to people that need them. The article did specify that there may be some drawbacks, such as the reduced accessibility leading to less maintenance being able to be done to it, however the potential benefits are amazing. The fact that they are not taking up any prime real estate means there will be more opportunities for other businesses to develop in the places that the data centers would have been. This means that everybody benefits. The consumer gets more stuff, Microsoft does not have to invest as much money into land, and smaller businesses have more opportunities. Additionally, the servers seemed to fail at an even lower rate than normal servers, meaning the maintenance issue is not that big of a deal at all. In fact, the lack of servicemen jostling around the equipment all the time may end up being a positive thing. Perhaps this new realization may change the way we handle land based electrical equipment as well. The article also briefly described how a windmill powered the data center, meaning that projects like this can be undergone with clean energy. It will be interesting to see if we could somehow use water currents to power these data centers as they become more prevalent. Regardless, these qualities make underwater data an extremely powerful tool, especially in the modern age. In the US as well as Europe, we constantly hear about rising housing costs due to things like population growth and mass immigration, however if projects like the Northern Isles become a trend, more land may be available for housing, thus driving down the cost of living for many people. There is so much more water than land in the world, and the more we can utilize that space, the better life becomes for everyone. We often hear about the negatives of massive corporations and how they can jeopardize out rights and liberties. While those criticisms are extremely valid, stories like these can help you to realize that things aren’t always so clear cut. Sometimes all it takes is a group of intelligent and innovative people with the right resources to truly make an impact on the world around us.

  26. I thought that this article was fascinating. Microsoft has really outdone themselves, and the whole premise of this project seems so futuristic. I was so shocked by the amount of advantages there are for going to the sea floor. The advantages are the amount of water cools the systems for basically no cost, no need for expensive commercial real estate. The biggest advantages is that it takes significant time and specialized effort to acquire and develop commercial real estate for a traditional data center in a major city, while building a sealed pod and deploying it on the seafloor should be considerably simpler and faster. Obviously, moving underwater is a high risk, high reward situation. If anything goes wrong, it could be catastrophic. But on the other hand, this project could be a huge success for the future of the human race. The successful two-year deployment of the Northern Isles demonstrates the feasibility of greener, more sustainable power initiatives for data centers, lastly the efficiency of cooling the data center itself is impeccable. I was also shocked at how efficient the data center actually was, and that it only failed at a rate of approximately one-eighth what experts would expect from the same servers in a traditional, human-serviced data center over the same period. Microsoft’s team hypothesizes that this is partly due to the sealed, inert nitrogen atmosphere the pod was pressurized with before deployment. I think that Microsoft’s team is correct, as the seal limits the space where the waves can move which weakens the overall efficiency of the data getting to the center and vice versa. Microsoft also hypothesize that the unusually high success rate is due to the fact that there are no humans, which means there is more oxygen, and less room for human error. This project from Microsoft shows how the future is looking bright, thanks to technology.

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