Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Underwater Data Centers

Microsoft has recently experimented with underwater data centers.  They began by dropping a server rack with the power of roughly 300 PCs into the ocean off of the coast of California.   This experiment was carried out due to the fact that current data centers have proved to be inefficient.  According to Microsoft, there could also be a number of environmental benefits.  The goal of the company is to be able to utilize these data centers with a product of zero emissions.
            I believe that these underwater data centers could prove to be extremely effective.  First, there is great value in improving the overall efficiency of these centers.  The fact that these pods would be placed in areas that are closer to humans than those above land would greatly improve the latency of current computers.  Additionally, current data centers utilize a lot of energy in an attempt to cool off their systems.  However, underwater, the ocean water would naturally cool these centers.  This would create a net emission of zero, and greatly help the environment. 
Some could argue that the heat given off by these centers could harm underwater wildlife.  However, Microsoft has stated that these centers have a net heat emission of zero, which if true, would not affect wildlife.  Additionally, these data centers are built from recycled materials.  Microsoft believes this could greatly improve the carbon footprint compared to above water centers.  The pros seem to greatly outweigh the cons in this experiment.  This first experiment is a small step in an even larger plan for Microsoft.  "Our first experiment was like dipping our pinkie toe in the water, and now we're going for the big toe," said Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research NExT.  The company plans to move on another project soon, in which they hope to increase the effectiveness of the data centers.  They will equip the next batch of pods with turbines, which will allow the data centers to utilize the wave energy in order to operate. 
Microsoft hopes to be able to create fully operating underwater data centers in roughly 90 days.  Current data centers usually take up to two years to build.  In my opinion, this discovery could lead to something we take for granted ten years from now.  The efficiency of these under water centers could exponentially improve data center speed, and decrease harmful effects on the environment.  Although these centers are not imminently going to be put to full use, I look forward to seeing if one day Microsoft can find a way to make them work on a large scale.


  1. These underwater data centers really seem like the future of databases. Obviously pollutant emissions are a huge problem in factories today, but this innovation seems to have solved that issue. I believe it was a good point that the heat of these centers could disrupt wildlife. I found it good that Microsoft did address this potential issue, and it seems from what they said that this should not be an issue at all. I agree with a lot of points in this blog about how this really can be the future of the database. It also does acknowledge that we are still far from perfecting this technology but Microsoft is absolutely heading in the right direction. If this innovation takes off to reach its potential, it could solve a lot of the issues that are existent in the environment right now.

  2. I agree with a lot of the points Michael made in his blog and also many of the points that Matt commented about the blog. I was surprised to hear that data centers would be located in the ocean due to the fact it would be hard to get to and to control from land. However, like Michael and Matt said, these underwater data centers could turn out to be extremely effective and could potentially be the future of all databases. First off, this innovation would save a lot of energy. Microsoft has to install many air conditioners in their database facilities to cool down the systems. Not only would underwater databases save an extreme amount of energy, but Microsoft would also save an enormous amount on money. According to a NY Times article, air conditioning bills are one of the technology industry's most expensive problems. When I first read this blog, like many others, my first thought was that this experiment could be harmful to the environment. However, if the heat given off the underwater databases has a net emission of zero, no harm would be done. Also, since the underwater centers would be using recycled materials, the innovation could actually be helpful to the environment. Also according to the NY Times article, the above land database centers sometimes cause so much heat that they crash. This is another problem that the underwater database systems would solve. I am very excited to see if this experiment actually works and to see what the future holds for database centers.


  3. Michael, I fully agree that underwater data centers may be the future of cloud storage technology. The benefits and advancements offered by the concept are numerous. However, after reading the CNN article, I found it left out some possible roadblocks this project may encounter. The largest of which may be the prohibition of underwater data centers by the government in the future. If this technology takes off as the article suggests, numerous tech companies will be looking to make the same shift to underwater storage centers which, in turn, will create an abundance of these large containers at the bottom of our oceans. Although the article states that these data centers pose no immediate environmental threats, it doesn't mean that lawmakers will allow an endless stream of them to be placed along the ocean floor. Perhaps, looking years ahead, the government will create designated dropping areas so that these data centers may operate. Alternatively, the government may create a tax-like system for companies that wish to shift to underwater centers. However, overall, I agree that we may see a large push in the future by companies to utilize this innovation. Until then, it will be interesting to follow Microsoft as they further test their new data pods.


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