Microsoft built a datacenter that sat on the bottom of the Pacific ocean for three months

By Shawn Knight
Feb 1, 2016
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  1. Our increased reliance on cloud-based services is forcing some in the datacenter industry to rethink their strategy. As you may know, it takes an incredible amount of energy to keep massive datacenters cool – so much so that companies like Facebook, Google and now Microsoft are experimenting with unconventional approaches to the common problem of heat.

    Over the past year, Microsoft has been working on a research project known as Project Natick that involves operating a datacenter under water. In the case of the initial prototype, christened the Leona Philpot (named after a character from the Halo universe), Microsoft deployed it on the seafloor roughly one kilometer off the pacific coast.

    The benefits of an underwater datacenter are aplenty. Aside from the obvious of using the cool ocean water to keep server temperatures under control, Microsoft says its underwater datacenters could be deployed within 90 days versus the two years it takes to build a datacenter on land.

    What's more, because much of the world's population lives in urban areas near large bodies of water, latency could be delayed greatly compared to land-based datacenters that are typically built far away from populated areas.

    As for the impact on the environment, Microsoft said they observed no heating of the marine environment beyond a few inches from the vessel.

    Microsoft deployed Leona Philpot for a total of 105 days and said it was more successful than expected. One of the obvious concerns is a hardware failure as you can't exactly send a technician out to the bottom of the ocean at midnight for a repair job. Fortunately, nothing went wrong during the trial. And with the slowing of Moore's Law, servers will be replaced less often - another plus for the project.

    Microsoft researchers are already designing a follow-up experiment that'll be three times as large as Leona Philpot which measured eight feet in diameter.

    Permalink to story.

  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,156   +1,431

    Would be worth mentioning the capacity of this data center, aka underwater hard drive.

    Is it enough to contain all the porno from the Internet, to send it down for the post-zombie generation to fish out and rebuild the population real quick?
    LoginToLogout likes this.
  3. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,560   +2,901

    For some reason I don't believe that. It's the same thing, just under water. If it works under water it would work on land.
  4. Joe Potosky

    Joe Potosky TS Rookie

    Permits required at various levels of government, zoning variance, local building permits, inspections, unions, local protest, power lines and on and on.
    Arris and madboyv1 like this.
  5. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,560   +2,901

    Still yet I find it hard to believe those are not variables for dropping this brick in water instead of land.
  6. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 867   +277

    So if the datacenter is in international waters, does this mean that no laws need to be followed - or taxes be paid?
  7. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,560   +2,901

    Yeah I'm sure taxes is the reason it takes 2 years compared to 3 months to build a data center.

    As for laws, yes lets avoid any law that might be in place to prevent safety hazards and pollution. Everyone knows it doesn't matter how much polution we put in water or the amount of hazards while it is there. If these laws are not in place yet for water construction they will be before long. This sounds just like any other shortcut a company tries to make which creates the need for laws to be written. It may be a shortcut now, but wait until all the headache it creates have been sorted through. In the meantime lets see how much of our water we can contaminate even more.
  8. bmw95

    bmw95 TS Addict Posts: 106   +58

    "As for the impact on the environment, Microsoft said they observed no heating of the marine environment beyond a few inches from the vessel."

    Not really sure about that. I mean for something as small as that center, sure, but what happens when you scale up? Maybe instead of creating a larger data center under water, they're thinking of making many smaller ones, 1 for each major coastal city. Not sure.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  9. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,518   +506

    Have you ever seen a "REAL" datacenter???

    And your mind is boggling with the idea of one of those to take 2 years to build... I'm baffled.
  10. mec20mb9

    mec20mb9 TS Rookie

    That's great that the heat dissipated is only noticeable within a few inches, but that's one single rack. The same reason it only takes 90 days (allegedly) to get it deployed is the same reason that it's inefficient- it's tiny. There are at minimum 5000 servers in a moderate MS datacenter. Maybe at scale, the savings on cooling make it worthwhile for the cost of building these things. But no matter the scale, the heat has to go somewhere, and I seriously doubt marine life would be left unaffected by several thousand of these.
  11. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,560   +2,901

    My point is in the comparison of this article. If that same data center that you are referring to was built to sink in a lake, it would take longer than 90 days to build. If they built a small data center, one the size of the brick they are sinking, it would not take 2 years to build. The one difference that they conveniently fail to mention, the data center size is the difference in why the time difference. It does not take eight times longer to build something for placement on land than for water. Eight is too big of a difference, I would believe 1.5 or possible 2, but not eight times.

    Since you so ridiculously mention a "REAL" data center. Can you imagine how long it would take them to prep a room that size to be waterproof? I bet it would take longer than 2 years. Anymore smar-tass comments?
  12. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 867   +277

    Obviously the DESIGN will take ages - that's part of what they're doing now.... Once they've figured out how to make everything work (waterproofing included), it shouldn't take that long to deploy...

    Kind of like the first Space Shuttle.... first one took years and years.... next one not so long, next one even less time...

    Eventually things might be faster - but the numbers MS are floating now, with full deployment still obviously years in the future - are clearly just VERY rough estimates. Let's revisit this in a year or 2 and see what happens...
  13. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,518   +506

    Yes actually, I do have a couple more. How about think modular? Why a huge room when you can have a bunch of small interconected modules which would actually help in getting them back up for maintenance when needed, instead of putting this whole thing offline.
  14. deemon

    deemon TS Addict Posts: 207   +48

    Why they don't use it to heat up water or heating or just for warm water in urban areas?
  15. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,518   +506

    Why do you want climate change?
  16. deemon

    deemon TS Addict Posts: 207   +48

    You take cold showers and wash your dishes with cold water to avoid climate change? Or just rather sit in -20 in winter with icicle hanging from your nose instead of turning on heating for not causing climate change? You mad bro?

    And yes, as a matter of fact, I do want climate change, but that's entirely different topic and out of scope of this article.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
  17. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 867   +277

    That's a REALLY expensive way to heat water....You have to understand just how large the ocean is - Even underwater nuclear tests barely phase it (yes, they're bad, but not THAT bad) and even the most robust datacenter is nowhere near a nuclear blast.
  18. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,560   +2,901

    If the heat is there anyway, you can't really look at it as an expense to use that heat for other advantages.
  19. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 867   +277

    But the entire point of the article was that it was cheaper/faster/etc to do it under the sea... to leave it on land just to heat water would be pretty crazy...

    "No accusations, just friendly crustaceans! Under the sea!!" - Homer Simpson
  20. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,560   +2,901

    I think we already established that is the part I don't believe. So I will leave it at that.
  21. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 867   +277

    Well yes - but even if we decide that MS is wrong and you are correct, I hardly think that using it to heat water would be a cost-effective use of their time and money... it's not like you can simply take the waste heat from a datacenter and transfer it to the local water supply without spending money...
  22. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 11,708   +1,887

    M$ has gotten to the point where they think they can say anything they please, and it is supposed to be accepted verbatim.

    I take their press releases as the work of your basic garden variety sociopath, serving their own ends.
  23. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 867   +277

  24. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 11,708   +1,887

    Much in the in the same way you sit around slack jawed, and hanging on every word they say.

    When Natella Speaks, (Never mind, you'll get the idea)
    People are patently expected to take M$ word for everything they say as gospel. Some of us don't.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2016
  25. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 867   +277

    I understand your hatred of Microsoft has blinded you to pretty much anything rational.... but this story really doesn't have anything to do with their so-called evil... it's just a story about researching placement of datacenters under the sea... crankytroll, go troll somewhere else...

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