Tech companies such as Facebook and Google have their data centres in colder parts of the world due to the heat, but Microsoft has gone one better and decided to drop a Cloud Data Centre under the sea.
Microsoft says that 50% of people live near the coast and dropping a cloud data centre under the ocean makes perfect sense. Microsoft are testing its first submarine cloud data centre under the ocean, dubbed Leona Philpot, which they believe could make data centres faster, cost-effective, environmentally friendly and easier to set up. Microsoft first tested such a method back in August of 2016 when engineers dropped a large steel capsule 30 feet under the Pacific Ocean just off the California coast. A single cloud data centre computing rack consisting of around 100 sensors to monitor every aspect of the underwater conditions such as: Pressure, humidity and motion, was dropped into the ocean for 105 days and engineers said that it exceeded their expectations.
According to Microsoft, these are the reasons why underwater cloud data centres are a good idea:
- Placing cloud data centres underwater eliminates the need for cooling which will dramatically cut energy costs.
- Half of the worlds population is located within 200 kilometers of a coast, meaning placing cloud data centres in the ocean would reduce latency leading to a faster delivery of data.
- Reduce the time to build cloud data centres from 2 years to 90 days. Microsoft believes they can mass produce the steel capsules for the cloud data centres to be placed in and design the capsules in a manner where they wouldn’t require any human interaction.
- Capsules maybe powered themselves by renewable energy in the form of underwater turbines or tidal power.
Having said that underwater cloud data centres do have its downsides. Even though Microsoft intends not to have human interaction with their cloud data centres, there will come a time where IT engineers will be required to repair/replace servers underwater. Since fixing issues beneath the ocean is not the best of ideas, Microsoft plan to have the cloud data centre unit operate for 5 years without any maintenance, then at every 5 year interval it would be dragged up to the surface to have its internal parts replaced. Other downsides to having cloud data centres under water is the salt water which could prove to be corrosive.
Microsoft does see this method as the future for cloud data centre management but they wouldn’t say if it was a total replacement for all cloud data centre servers. We don’t see it as a full direct replacement, but we may see more and more cloud data centres being dropped into the ocean. In 2013, Facebook located one of its latest state-of-the-art data centres in Luleå, the far north of Sweden, to make use of cheap, renewable energy generated by hydroelectric schemes and outside air for cooling.