If you’ve ever walked into a server room, you know how important cooling is. Depending on how nice the facility is, you’ll either notice that it’s rather warm, or that there’s some serious cooling happening. Now imagine that same server room, but expanded in size many dozens of times over. That’s what a data center is like, and you have to get creative when you want to cool one of those, as Microsoft has learned.
Data centers are nothing new, but as the digital realm grows, the need for more such places increases. And if you want to save money on that cooling bill, you’ll look toward areas that are naturally cool. One such place that Microsoft has decided to explore is the bottom of the sea.
Late last year, Microsoft constructed and deployed their first underwater data center. The initial test proved to be successful, though they still have a lot more testing to do before they can start realistically rolling these out. But why underwater?
The first obvious answer is related to keeping things cool, but that’s not the only reason. Roughly 50% of the population lives near a coastline. By deploying data centers off the coast, Microsoft would be able to reduce latency to these users, while also not having to take up large portions of land in an already crowded area.
According to the company, they can also deployed from start to finish in a matter of just 90 days, and will have a life span of about 20 years. Of course, the technology inside won’t last that long, so they have proposed a 5-year deployment cycle, where they’ll bring it up, swap out servers and such, and send it back down.
The biggest question about this isn’t about cooling or efficiency, but the environment. Microsoft has stated that “no waste products, whether due to the power generation, computers, or human maintainers are emitted into the environment.” They are still planning further tests in different locations to ensure efficiency, and to make sure that their promise of little to no environmental impact stays true.