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Project Natick: Microsoft's Underwater Data Center (projectnatick.com)
202 points by Qworg on Feb 1, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 156 comments


It's corrosive, expensive to get things to and from it for replacement, leaks destroy the hardware, it's not close to power generation, internet access needs cables because RF doesn't penetrate water, everything is going need watercooling which is rather expensive.

Imagining they completely solve the problem of sea water, leaks, etc, it still is amazing to think that you would want to do your server maint by pulling a data center out of the ocean on a boat and replacing hard drives and the like.

The only way this makes sense to me is if there is the ability to create something akin to the cargo container as a building block of a data center, where you can have arbitrary compute and storage plug into a greater complex.

Sounds like that's exactly what they want to do: they would only pull them out of the water every 5 years to do computer replacements / maintenance. If some components fail then who cares. They wouldn't do a full rebuild for 20 years.

I worked in large data centers before and I just don't see how this can be done practically. Data centers require quite a bit of physical maintenance.

Every computer design has some element that will render a large part of the design inoperable in case of failure. Either it is a SAN head (even if you have two, the fail over can malfunction), or a switch setup.

Then there are things like failures of simultaneously purchased components (hard drives purchased at the same time, that are worked the same load will roughly fail at the time).

Cloud datacenters are not complex heterogeneous mixes of components. There's no SAN head. It's one thing multiplied + some networking gear. Even if a top of rack switch fails they're still not going to yank the box yet because the TCO will be lowered by too much maintenance at this scale. They wait for their maint interval and fix everything at once (or just upgrade the hardware).

Think of a farm of small data center pods with cloud apps. When failure in a pod exceed useful threshold, apps are migrated out to other pods and the pod is retrieved, serviced and returned to its place.

A custom made barge with dynamic positioning gear and a grabbing/coupling system to detach the pod from the subsea grid, lift it, and then re-attach it would make the servicing relatively efficient.

I could see the roundtrip time for a full hardware replacement of a pod being under an hour, conceivably under 10-15 minutes.

> The only way this makes sense to me is if there is the ability to create something akin to the cargo container as a building block of a data center

Which is something Google already did[1].

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Modular_Data_Center

And if it is just cooling, why aren't datacenters built on the coast pumping sea water for cooling?

High cost of the land on the coasts?

And I guess you wouldn't even need to use sea water as a primary cooler, just as a secondary cooler. I.e. the primary cooler flows through your datacenter and the secondary cooler cools that primary cooler. So fewer pipes are exposed to sea salt.

So, same procedure as power plants.

Yeah. Instead of trying to protect the environment from what's inside (radioactivity), you are trying to protect what's inside from the environment (sea salt)!

I think they should be able to handle most of those issues, for example they may be able to use wave power for power generation. Furthermore, I don't see how RF opacity is an issue, seeing as anyone running a data center over RF is criminally insane.

edit: I can't grammar

You run management connections from separate computers over RF as a backup and for fail-over in event everything else fails. I mentioned that in a recent comment related to Github outage and preventing those:


Can help with certain security situations, too. Not sure how much that applies if it's underwater, though. Most infiltrations would probably turn into a denial-of-service attack effectively haha.

Fair enough. It doesn't get much more literally out of band, eh?

I tried to get it further by proposing a neutrino-based communication system. Can just send the signals straight through the planet itself to a datacenter very far away. I was told there would be both implementation problems and cost overruns with that project. Went back to default recommendations for wireless.

> everything is going need watercooling which is rather expensive

Why would everything need water cooling? I'd expect that something using water would be used to keep the air inside the unit cool, and then the cooling for the servers themselves would be ordinary air cooling.

Assuming they have ways around some of those issues this could work out rather well. The important thing is that it's only a research project. Microsoft's research turns out some really awesome stuff but plenty of it failed or is cut. Who knows what'll happen to this but it's a really interesting proposition!

For power you could use a small nuclear reactor, just like submarines and aircraft carriers. I've always thought it would be a fun exercise to take a decommissioned nuclear submarine and turn it into a floating datacenter.

When nuclear vessels are decommissioned they remove the reactors. Operating a naval reactor requires a constant watch by multiple highly-paid experts. They are not cost effective for electrical power generation.

The staffing required to operate a nuclear submarine is astronomical, so it would set the person:server node ratio back decades.

It might be fun but there are better things you can do with $700M.

Yeah but we only need the reactor, not the whole submarine.

Do you want the raft? Because that's how you get the raft.

Because 50% of us live near the coast, not past it. Maintaining anything in close association with an ocean is painful. Everything rusts. Even the stuff they say doesn't does. Anything that moves ages at an accelerated rate. As soon as the slightest waves start, little salt crystals appear on every surface.

> everything is going need watercooling which is rather expensive

Water cooling significantly reduces running costs which is why many DCs are switching to it. Over the long term you save money.

I've read that ancient Roman concrete was manufactured in a way that is seemingly lost to time. It's also practically impervious to the elements.


If we want to find a way to build beneath the sea that's a good place to start.

According to this article, a 2013 study successfully reverse-engineered the recipe for Roman concrete:


That is an awesome link. Thanks for that.

Do data centers ever rely on RF for connectivity?

No, but it's a harder proposition to have fibre runs to a server which is in the ocean. You can throw a normal server somewhere silly and connect to it wirelessly, this is just the one remarkable exception.

What if you hook up to some of the undersea fiber that's already there? (I still think this is a bad idea)

I don't think that's possible, it would be sheathed in extremely thick steel and not something you can just splice onto.

The NSA disagrees.

Same question in my head, how do they prevent corrosition?

And why "everything is going need watercooling which is rather expensive" ?? If i remember correctly every OVH DC Server are using it.

For marine gear you either use a material which won't readily corrode, or you use sacrificial anodes which are galvanically consumed rather than something you care about.

Seriously. It's a proposition obviously cooked up by someone who has never spent more than a week's vacation by the sea.

-> It all started in 2013 when Microsoft employee, Sean James, who served on a US Navy submarine submitted a ThinkWeek Paper.

Well Seattle is right by the sea, so..

Microsoft isn't in Seattle, so...

I'm aware - I worked there. But it's pretty close - certainly not far enough to be oblivious to the ocean

It's a 20 minute drive from Redmond to Seattle.

It's a 3 hour drive from Seattle to the ocean.

I suppose it would depend on what you'd qualify as "the ocean". I lived in Seattle for 4.5 years, and while I don't consider Elliot Bay[1] to be "the ocean" per se, it's pretty close - and you have all the corrosion problems and general exposure to the elements that you'd get, which I think was the original point of the comparison in this thread.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elliott_Bay

Ok someone has never been to Seattle it seems. It's not a 3 hour drive to the ocean.

It's amazing that the drive to the Northern part of the Olympia Peninsula is so long, Bellingham which looks much farther is around a half hour closer.

With minimal traffic, it is: https://tinyurl.com/zbkp89q

A clever idea. People are wondering why such a thing might be useful, so let me advance a theory:


Suppose you have a bunch of people somewhere, say, the US, and a bunch of other people somewhere else, say, China, and there's an ocean in between. If they need to work collaboratively on something, placing a datacenter in one country or the other yields asymmetric latency; someone has a lot more.

If you can just plop a datacenter exactly at the midpoint, everyone wins. It needn't be the biggest datacenter ever, just one that can handle the latency-sensitive tasks.

Neat project.

They pretty much say why in the project page: renewable energy [tidal, currents?] and cooling. The third, as you mention is latency --they want to be where the people are.

Plus, at depth, storms and typhoons don't affect things all that much, it's rather calm. So, the main threat might be from saboteurs rather than natural disasters [beside the salty environment] because beside a coast guard at the surface [which if contraband coming in is any proxy, it's pretty porous], you don't have a "police presence". So they'd have to rely heavily on monitoring systems.

Sharks love to chew oceanic cables!

If you need to fix something while the datacentre is in the middle of the ocean, the cost and time will be a multiple vs if it just off the coast.

That's true for copper cables not so much for fiber optics ;)

I think you have the backwards -- sharks aren't attracted to copper cables.. but are attracted to undersea fiber optic cables.. because they carry high voltage power (for the undersea repeaters), which emits an electromagnetic field that attracts the sharks:



I stand corrected, forgot about the power cables I know sharks were attracted to the EM field around the old transatlantic phone and telegraph wires. Well at least it will be a good reason for an outage.

They will be able to send a shark tooth to angry clients.

That may be a part of it, but I also think a major component is cooling. Cooling account for 30-40% of the running cost of a datacenter, so building with access to enough water, they've essentially cut the running cost with to 2/3 of conventional datacenters.

My guess is they are more concerned with latency for real-time services used by millions in big cities, where land is expensive. Think VR servers.

Quick googling yields [1] datacenter land selling for more than $1 million per acre in SV and [2] Google's requirements for datacenter placement. The first four points listed are cheap electricity, carbon neutrality, lots of water, and large parcels of land; the 215 to 1200 acres mentioned in [2] would cost $240 million to $1.5 billion at the price quoted in [1]. Sealed containers anchored to the free sea floor, running on free wave energy and cooled with free sea water would be a very clever way to satisfy those requirements while staying close to the customers.

[1] http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2015/07/24/equin...

[2] http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/google-data-center-faq-pa...

More likely it's to reconcile latency requirements with national borders. If you want to be close to a country to offer low latency, but political or legal or tax reasons mean you don't want to be in that country, then an ocean datacenter can get you close enough.

Hint hint - China! Those damn ICP licenses!

Speaking about effectiveness and stuff: I am still amazed how these modern bootstrapy landing pages, that, in this particular case, basically contain nothing more than text and a couple of pictures, can make browser noticeably slower. I mean, yeah, it works, can be built quickly and, since users are used to it — nobody really complains. If it would be some yet another tiny startup, I wouldn't even bother to comment.

But when it's a landing for some futuristic Microsoft project, which is about doing significant work to achieve relatively small improvement in something, and which is very likely to be non-environmentally-friendly… Really, just look at it. Enjoy how scrolling up and down makes your browser lag. And then look at the source. Just marvelous.

It's rendered entirely with JavaScript, has images (and gifs), and an iframe with a Bing map on it, some sort of plugin for "Azure Media Player", and it appears to also have some scrolling-based JavaScript. It's a good example of an obese website: http://idlewords.com/talks/website_obesity.htm

Cooling data centers with seawater is not new, Google has been doing it since at least 2011. There are many ways to mitigate the corrosive effects on the equipment. "For instance, Interxion uses materials like Cunifer and titanium, which will last approximately 10 years in seawater." [1]

There also are many tried and true ways to manage the heated water so that it is safe for the environment [1, 2].

"We pump that seawater through cooling modules - which are direct water to water heat exchange modules - and then the water is gravity fed from the cooling modules back out to a temporary building, which serves the purpose of mixing incoming seawater with outgoing return water, so when we return the water to the Gulf it is at a temperature more similar to the incoming water." [2].

I'm sure Microsoft was aware of all this before publishing their report. Good on them for thinking creatively.

[1]: http://www.datacenterjournal.com/industry-perspective-seawat...

[2]: http://www.datacenterdynamics.com/power-cooling/googles-finl...

Can't all the pipes and valves be made of plastic?

Sea water decomposes plastic faster than it corrodes metal. This is one of the issues with plastic pollution of the oceans they break down release nasty chemicals and end up as micro plastics.

Most plastics will decompose under a year in the oceans turning it into soup basically. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/08/090820-plast...

Interesting - I didn't know that. But the article you cite says it only really happens in tropical waters above 30C (86F). Is there evidence plastic decomposes in sea water in cooler climates?

By definition if the water is used for cooling, it will be warmed up when flowing through the datacenter.

But you could use sea water just a secondary cooling system, with non sea water flowing through the datacentre and a heat exchange between the two.

The main advantage I would think that is not mentioned is mitigating the price of real estate in expensive regions like Hong Kong, New York, San Francisco etc.

I came here to say the same. Cities with expensive real estate are often the cities where latency matters even more. This is essentially a datacenter that can be dropped in the ocean, rent-free.

Regarding real estate - what entity owns the portion of the sea where the data center is located? Is there security? Curious how this would work in terms of property law.

Why not just build down. Datacenter and car parks below ground, retail at ground level, housing and offices at higher levels.

Natick is a town in Massachusetts, as the FAQ says; it's also the home of Natick Labs, which over the years has done interesting R&D.


ETA: that's what I get for typing mindlessly instead of cutting and pasting.

Massachusetts, not Maryland. I live right next door to Natick. Read that Wikipedia article more carefully.

I live on Lake cochituate in natick. The fish still contain unsafe levels of toxins from a Natick Labs accident on the bank of the lake in 1984. Interesting choice of project name.

I grew up in Natick, surprised to see this as a codename.

Is there any connection or just a weird coincidence?

It kinda sounds like nautic

See also http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/01/technology/microsoft-plumb... (via https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11008851).

Since the current post is more of an original source and is currently ranked higher on the front page, we treated that one as the dupe and merged its comments here.

I'm still not sure why one would want to place the data center at the bottom of the ocean. I would think that the disadvantage of not being able to perform maintenance for 5 years would be more significant -- can't they just create the data center near a water source and pump the water through pipes that run across a heat exchange on the backside of the servers?

Your idea is what's being done at the largest computing center in Switzerland, the CSCS. They pump water from the relatively deep Lake Lugano [1]. Europe's currently fastest supercomputer (world No. 7) is hosted there.

[1] http://www.cscs.ch/cscs/an_innovative_centre/cooling_system/...

[2] http://www.top500.org/lists/2015/11/

Environmentally pumping heat into a river would not be though acceptable I would think, so the water source probably is the ocean, running pipe across beach front property might not be as doable.

> perform maintenance for 5 years would be more significant

They would be built like Google, you don't waste money doing maintenance.

I think the main issue is it's unusual and as such costs of complexity and legal come in.

I assume it is for space reasons. You could put down a data center in a harbor, for example. The amount of metal that would be required to scale this model to that size, however, seems excessive.

It seems like putting this in freshwater would help with a lot of issues. A data center in say Lake Huron gets you relatively low latency access to a lot of US & Canadian population. Putting it in an artificially dammed lake on a river gives you free-ish power & cooling (and probably population proximity as well, since river-side areas tend to be densely populated).

Talk about a Digital Ocean.

It would be pretty amazing to put servers undersea in the middle of an ocean for transaction efficiency reasons -- say between NYC and LON directly on the straight line path.

The crazy thing is there probably are financial market applications/HFT where having processing power exactly equidistant between to market centers with the most efficient path would make sense. (Running microwave instead of fiber, to get 1c vs. 2/3c, would also be interesting, but there are different engineering challenges there.)

Amazed Microsoft didn't mention this.

Sure, some heat will be added to the ocean. But land-based data centers add heat to the environment and also need to be air conditioned.

One question, what happens when there's a tsunami?

This is a particularly relevant question on the US west coast: http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/how-to-stay-safe-when...

A tsunami would have relatively little effect on a pod suspended/anchored to the sea floor. They only get violent when they reach the shallows and come onto land. It'd have more effect on the shore connection point where the data and power go into the ocean. These could be buried up to the shore though and anything above ground secured in a sealed bunker though that doesn't solve the problem of keeping the pods powered through the power outage after a tsunami.

That's somewhat reassuring (there's thought to be a 12% chance of a Cascadia mega-quake and accompanying west coast tsunami in the next twenty years).

Yeah the main factor in how much will a large wave or tsunami affect a structure at sea is how deep is the water the object is in. Out in the deep ocean the surface swell is less than a meter and the wavelength is huge (200 km or so long) so the change is relatively gentle and gets subtler as you get deeper. It's really neat.


Presumably nothing. Tsunamis are a problem where the ocean meets the coast, almost nothing is going on when the water is deep.

OP here (and member of the Project Natick team) - the site has been updated with our video, and there's now a blog post with some more information: http://news.microsoft.com/features/microsoft-research-projec...

I don't get it. If this is all about heat, I would think that putting the data center beside the ocean and then pumping seawater around to cool things would be far easier than sinking the entire kit. Even if they really really want to be underwater, I'd assume digging an artificial lake and pumping water in and out would be easier than dealing with an actual ocean.

Eh, I think it's indeed more of an intellectual curiosity than anything else, but personally I cannot support enough our encroachment on the ocean. It truly is the last frontier on the surface of the Earth that we have yet to reliably explore.

Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) have a lot more potential to expand our understanding of this planet and I think it is exciting. Just because we can't go there doesn't mean we can't tap into its power.

At the risk of sounding like a BBC documentary, the oceans are the engine of this planet and they deserve to be investigated thoroughly.


It's probably more of an exercise than anything else

I imagine it would be better for maintenance to use the seawater to cool the coolant itself, that way they aren't pumping salt into their datacenter.

At first I was concerned that there would be so much humidity inside of the capsule from the condensation caused by the temperature difference between the outside and the inside, but I see they've addressed that by replacing the atmosphere with Nitrogen.

I wonder if they've considered an inert fluid to immerse the computers in? If you can use something like Fluorinert, or even high-grade mineral oil, you might be able to make the vessel not required to withstand crush forces as high since the fluid in the capsule can be at the same pressures.

I do love this idea because they can start putting data centers along of submarine cables. One in the middle of the Atlantic, between London and NYC would be great for HFT traders.

I wouldn't be surprised if the NSA wouldn't love something like this too. A whole data center on cross-oceanic cables would provide a lot of infrastructure they can use to analyze traffic in real-time.

> At first I was concerned that there would be so much humidity inside of the capsule from the condensation caused by the temperature difference between the outside and the inside, but I see they've addressed that by replacing the atmosphere with Nitrogen.

Whatever reason they have for using nitrogen (making the thing fireproof is one reason), avoiding condensation isn't it. You could do that just by using dry air and packing a little silica gel. It's not like you're going to introduce more moisture over time into a sealed system.

I'm not sure what nitrogen has to do with humidity. I don't think anything. If humidity was the problem there are other ways to deal with it (the water doesn't come from nowhere, and once it's gone, you won't get any condensation anymore).

Sounds like (pressurized) nitrogen had more to do with increasing the air density for heat transfer. But I still don't know why they chose nitrogen.

Yeah I'm not sure what it has to do with it either, desiccants[1] are nothing new and they are the standard when it comes to humidity reduction in shipping. You might be familiar with those little packets of silica beads in foods and computer components that say "DO NOT EAT" on them.

That said, nitrogen-refrigeration is commonly used for temperature control.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desiccant

"A whole data center on cross-oceanic cables would provide a lot of infrastructure they can use to analyze traffic in real-time." And plenty of room for submarine cat-and-mouse. Guess it'd have to be inside US waters.

I remember something similar has been tested out by Intel. No idea why the concept didn't went further.

Changing the water temperature locally more than a few degrees has bad effects for the environment. Keep that in mind.

First thought as well. I mean, those datacenters on land also are pretty bad (especially compared to how "useful" they are in the most common cases), but that thing in the sea is somehow a bit more scary for several reasons.

But then I'm thinking: there are volcanos deep in the ocean, and life around them is surely different than in colder areas, but it doesn't seem to have much impact on larger area. It surely depends a lot on where you place your datacenter, but, theoretically, it should be possible to make it harmless.

The other thing is that of course tech giants placing their datacenters under the water won't care a bit about correct placing, and in the end there won't be anyone to stop them.

Data Sovereignty? Could this, for better or for worse, allow Microsoft to completely dictate the terms of how it stores and manages its data in international waters?

Ha. In "international waters", you're at the mercy of whomever has the strongest navy - usually that means to USA. Especially when they can make an at-all-plausible case that you're in some sense US-flagged.


Regardless of the effort and results, I think they should reconsider putting an illogical and patently false statement at the header of this article in attempt to gain interest about it.

Some of my data, or more specifically "my data" lives in my house, in servers in my garage. While the collaborative argument has some merit in proposing splitting latency differences, I think the vast majority of "our data" should end up living near where we are.

That results in a better question to ask, and that's "Why do people tend to put their data where they don't live?" Following, one may ask "Are there valid business models that can be created to help people put their data near where they live?"

Microsoft loves to hype these things; remember container data centers? It all makes for nice reading, but I suspect their TCO is crap.

When the USS Jimmy Carter[1] splices an intercept into an undersea fiber optic cable it probably leaves something similar to this behind of locally filter the data and only uplink relevant data.

Makes you wonder what vendors the Navy uses and if MSFT is using the same.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/20/politics/new-nuclear-sub-i...

I'm surprised that no one has commented at all on climate change. Having a data center in a body of water would surely heat up that body of water to a certain extent - even if it's just the surrounding area which can cause dramatic effects to the water, life, and relative climate/weather patterns.

This is a nice PR piece but building operational systems in a marine environment usually requires hardy engineering, equipment, and constant maintenance. It's not a friendly environment.

I can't see the benefits here, if they want water cooling colocation with hydro-electric or other freshwater flows seem much better.

Would be quite interesting to see what exactly comes out of this.

If the datacenter will be located in international waters it can pretty much chose the country which it belongs to as it will have to sail under a flag (this effects stationary ojbects also e.g. oil rigs in international waters).

Now every country can claim upto 200KM as their exclusive economical waters so it will still be under the jurisdiction of the country to which those waters belong to unless MSFT plans to really put the datacenter in the deep ocean.

On the side and more hilarious note if anyone hacks a datacenter in international waters they've technically committed piracy so I wonder how will this effect the NSA :D Although the downside of this is that countries can board and search vessels under the laws of the sea quite easily if they are in international waters.

Ha. With the project name, I somehow kept expecting this thing to be off the coast of Boston. Took me a while to realize it was off the West Coast :)

Given how much heat racks of servers on land generate, I don't understand how they can claim that there is no heat being added to the ocean.

I came here to say exactly the same thing ... it requires a lot more calories to heat up water one degree Celsius than it does air but the heat still has to go somewhere.

An interesting question would be, how much heat do all of the world datacenters produce and how much energy would it take to raise the average temperature of the Ocean by 1 degree?

The world's oceans contain 1,335,000,000 km^3 of water. Heat capacity is 4.2 KJ / liter / C. So it requires 5.6e24 joules to heat the oceans by 1 C.

The world generates 20,000 TWh of electricity per year, and maybe 10% is for IT. That's 7.2e18 joules of electricity / year in IT.

So it would take 780,000 years to heat by 1 C. Or 780 years to heat by 0.001 C.

Other sources of global warming are far, far worse.

The problem I'm concerned about isn't raising the average temperature of the ocean. The problem I'm concerned about is localized heating. Marine life is far more vulnerable to rapid temperature changes than life on land. We've seen dead zones developing in the past downstream of power-plants, as the warm water discharge from the steam turbines raises the temperature of the water and reduces its oxygen carrying capability. My concern is that if we put datacenters in the ocean, they'll create localized hot-spots with much the same result.

And that's if it was a closed system with no other sources or sinks of heat.

1 degree is a pretty large change

The data center generates the same amount of heat no matter what. It doesn't matter where it's generated. So unless you're arguing that we shouldn't have data centers, I don't understand your point.

I agree that the data center generates the same amount of heat no matter where it's placed. But like we've seen with power plants, heating water tends to have far more serious environmental consequences than heating air. If we place a full-scale datacenter in the ocean, will we end up with fish-kills and dead zones like we see downstream of powerplants from time to time?

Simply put, the ocean is a massive place with so many factors at play (like underwater currents bringing in cold water), that the heat generated by a ton of small "micro" datacenters will be pretty inconsequential.

This is precisely the sort of logic that has since the beginning of time led to us treat the ocean as a huge garbage can, and a massive amount of it has died in the past 100 years.

Seriously, watch Mission Blue. Sylvia Earle has more dive hours than anyone, ever, and thusly personally mapped a great deal of the ocean and has since watched those places die.

Because it's powered by wave energy.

They take the energy (Ie heat) from waves and power computers.

Energy (heat) in = Energy (heat) out.

If you had some electricity left over and shipped it out you'd be able to cool the oceans.

I think at a more simple level, why exactly would anyone want to establish a data center in one of the more inhospitable corners of the globe for any reason other than heat exchange?

Land costs?

Why not put data centers in Antarctica? Plenty of cold cold land there.

International treaties have established that Antarctica is exclusively for science, and not for private use.

Latency for one thing, as the article mentions

Last I heard, Microsoft actually was thinking of putting a data center on greenland back in 2007-08.

Maybe they already have a 'secret' unannounced private data center there.

Exactly - this is probably a very bad idea, even if it seems like only muck-dwelling worms and the like will be affected.

>Project Natick reflects Microsoft’s ongoing quest for cloud datacenter solutions that offer rapid provisioning, lower costs, high responsiveness, and are more environmentally sustainable.

I don't understand how an underwater data center would help with that

>The vision of operating containerized datacenters offshore near major population centers anticipates a highly interactive future requiring data resources located close to users. Deepwater deployment offers ready access to cooling, renewable power sources, and a controlled environment.

I don't understand why that needs to be done in an underwater data center.

>Enables rapid response to market demand, quick deployment for natural disasters and special events such as World Cup.

I don't understand how an underwater data center solves that.

>Latency is how long it takes data to travel between its source and destination. Half of the world’s population lives within 200 km of the ocean so placing datacenters offshore increases the proximity of the datacenter to the population dramatically reducing latency and providing better responsiveness.

Let's imagine you throw an underwater data center in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea to provide access to everybody. How is that more advantageous to just building the data center on one of the islands?

Overall, I guess I don't understand why we need an underwater data center, like at all. Is it mostly because of advanced cooling capability?


This reminds me of a book I read recently in which they put the servers on barges. I was an entertaining read, 1/1 would recommend.

Microsoft trying to be relevant/interesting. This is worse than Zune. I just might short MSFT tomorrow morning.

> you have a bunch of people somewhere, say, the US, and a bunch of other people somewhere else, say, China > If you can just plop a datacenter exactly at the midpoint

That would be Hawaii

Somewhat unrelated, but nice endorsement of Grafana! http://www.projectnatick.com/images/gifs/grafanaloop.gif

The "Leona Philpot"? Surely a reference to the "I Love Bees" ARG for Halo 2?


> "The first prototype, affectionately named Leona Philpot — a character in Microsoft’s Halo video game series..."

Oh... I should really pay more attention :)

With the layoffs in the oil exploration industry and the knock-on effects for engineering firms who helped with undersea exploration this is great timing from Microsoft.

Cheaper labour/costs to pick up the technology needed.

Would putting a big data center underground work? (ala geothermal cooling?)

You've heard of geothermal heating?

Of course, the ground can be reasonable cool, if you don't go too deep. The problem is, the heat will mostly stay where you put it---the ground is bad for actually moving the heat away.

IIRC, in geothermal cooling, don't they pipe liquid to disperse the heat to the surrounding ground? Also, earth homes?

What I don't get is how do you swap a disk? A datacentre requires pretty much constant maintenance. I guess a robot could swap a disk. But we are talking about a pretty costly equipment then.

Is the white paper that they mention on the website publicly available? I think it would offer more information than the website so people would understand the rationale for this investigation.

This sounds like a great idea, kind of. I'd be seriously concerned about the immediate environmental impact. Otoh, volcanic vents are hotbeds of life, so maybe it'd be ok.

Funnily enough, this was sort of predicted in a paper[1], even though the intended use there would have been HFT.


Google Earth Amazon Fire Apple Air . . Microsoft Water?

They should think of how to handle security.

There is a risk of not just industrial sabotage, but international espionage & terrorism.... and of course... Tom Cruise.

It sure saves on cooling, but watching someone trying to replace a failed drive will prove entertaining.

Why don't datacenters of scale use a fluid specially designed for heat dissipation that doesn't damage components like this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6ErbZtpL88?

I hate to be the cynical in the room, but this smells like tax avoiding.

Working for the company, I really really f'n hate this website.

How long till we start putting datacenters in space? 20 years?

With no convective medium, the primary cooling mechanism in space is radiation, making it no so easy to keep computers cool.

MS is misunderstanding what deep learning is :)

Cooling for free

Will there be any noise pollution?

SOMA flashbacks

Watch out for that structure gel!

Came in here looking for SOMA reference. I'd imagine a data center would sort of work as its own ARK, though (Not to mention the petabytes of sensitive, personal, possibly secret documents, pictures and videos for your perusal).

Seems like a bad idea to dump waste heat into the ocean.

the lack of diversity in that team is astounding ! not a single eastern european there.

I'd imagine the NSA would be pretty happy about this.


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