Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Underwater Datacenters

            Microsoft’s Research and Development team has been toying around with the ground breaking idea of underwater datacenters in order to revolutionize the already very popular cloud sharing technology. The prototype for this idea contained an operational datacenter rack and was surrounded by pressurized nitrogen in order to help soak up the heat that was generated by the rack. It was located approximately one kilometer offshore in the Pacific Ocean from August to November 2015 before Microsoft recovered it to study it further.
            I agree with Microsoft’s belief that this technology makes sense. As stated in the article, Microsoft would be able to avoid the expensive costs of developing in a metro area, and they would also avoid the added price of implanting fiber connectivity cables into these highly trafficked areas. Plus, with the majority of the world living within close proximity to oceans, these datacenters could be located offshore all over the world and would cut down on data transfer times. On paper, it seems like a fantastic idea but upon closer look, a few issues certainly arise.
            The article confesses to not know about many of the drawbacks it may experience with these underwater datacenters. The creators of the prototype admit to having no idea of how it will affect marine life. The engineers are uncertain how much thermal pollution the datacenters will give off and how that could affect the fragile ecosystems of surrounding marine life. In today’s day, that could pose for a huge stumbling block when Microsoft attempts to implement these datacenters in a large scale because environmentalists would certainly have a few things to say about it. Another potential oversight is how secure these datacenters actually are. The article says nothing about any type of security that would be surrounding them, which leads me to believe that they are just plopped somewhere off the shore in which case their depth wouldn’t be an unsurmountable feat. Plus, Microsoft workers would have to be able to access them anyways for repairs and maintenance, so they would certainly be within range of a human who is interested in breaking into the datacenter and potentially hijacking the data transfers that occur. Microsoft does have monitors on the centers to make sure they are running properly, but would they have an emergency response notification and how soon would workers be able to get there? Lastly, with today’s complicated international laws, where would these datacenters fall into play? If they are offshore of Europe in the Atlantic Ocean, would they follow Europe’s intellectual property laws on the United States’?
            I like the idea of these underwater datacenters because I think they can establish a whole new playing field for the technology industry, but there are certainly still a number of kinks that need to be worked out before this project can get off the ground.


Donnelly, Caroline. "Microsoft’s Underwater Datacentre: The Pros and Cons of Running Subsea Facilities." ComputerWeekly. TechTarget, Feb. 2016. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.

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