A New York Times article published on 1/31/16 highlights a new data center project from one of Microsoft’s Research groups called NExT (New Experiences and Technologies) that is solving a big data center problem (heat) with the cool ocean waters.
Today’s data centers, which power everything from streaming video to social networking and email, contain thousands of computer servers generating lots of heat. When there is too much heat, the servers crash.
Putting the gear under cold ocean water could fix the problem. It may also answer the exponentially growing energy demands of the computing world because Microsoft is considering pairing the system either with a turbine or a tidal energy system to generate electricity.
The effort, code-named Project Natick, might lead to strands of giant steel tubes linked by fiber optic cables placed on the seafloor. Another possibility would suspend containers shaped like jelly beans beneath the surface to capture the ocean current with turbines that generate electricity.
The experiment was a success — so much so that they extended the time and even ran some commercial data processing projects from the Azure cloud service.
The first prototype, affectionately named Leona Philpot — a character in Microsoft’s Halo video game series — has been returned, partly covered with barnacles, to the company’s corporate campus here.
It is a large white steel tube, covered with heat exchangers, with its ends sealed by metal plates and large bolts. Inside is a single data center computing rack that was bathed in pressurized nitrogen to efficiently remove heat from computing chips while the system was tested on the ocean floor.
This type of experiment leads to many other exciting options — better server hardware (can’t send a tech in the middle of the night to fix them under the sea), greener power (tidal wave generation, enhanced hardware power efficiency), etc.
It’s entirely possible that in the near future when you’re using the “cloud” you might actually be “under the sea.”