Microsoft’s Project Natick Exploring Underwater Data Center
The news has captured the attention of technology buffs, environmentalists and sci-fi fans: Microsoft has announced Project Natick, a serious plan to develop an underwater data center.
It seems company engineers have gone back and reread Jules Verne’s’ Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, or perhaps they perused Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan‘s Sea Power. Regardless of how Microsoft conceived the idea, society does need to make better use of the sea.
Why the Ocean?
It all makes sense. As Mahan said in his scholarship, water covers most of the world. Controlling the sea is the key to power. The mightiest empires have always been those that dominated the sea lanes.
Likewise, the oceans could be the key to the future for large corporations. If so, Microsoft could be poised for success throughout the century. Forget about outer space — there is plenty of room for human expansion right here on our planet.
Benefits of Underwater Technology
The proposed data center would benefit immensely from being underwater. Most important would be the cooling effect. Current data centers require a plethora of cooling devices. The heat generated from the electronic circuits would otherwise overwhelm the technology. Such extensive cooling increases the cost of the centers. In contrast, an underwater facility would already have natural coolant surrounding it. Temperatures are low enough in the ocean depths to obviate manual cooling systems.
Reduced costs could rebound to users. The Internet might become more available throughout the entire world. Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook fame, has embarked on a project to make Internet access free. Underwater data centers might be a means for him to make this happen. It is likely that he will be watching this Microsoft innovation closely.
Faster computers are another benefit. Current data centers sit in remote locations. However, most contemporary users live in urban spaces. An underwater data center could bridge the distance gap between the two. Consequently, future Internet users could enjoy increased computing speeds.
Microsoft has announced two possible layouts. First, the technology giant could lay tubes and fiber optic cables along the ocean floor.
Another option is to place large bins underneath the surface. In this case, the ocean current could serve as a generator.
Potential Concerns About Microsoft Plans
There are some potential problems, as one might expect. Environmentalists will undoubtedly want to know the effect of the center on sea life. Any intrusion by humans poses potential risks to the natural ecosystem.
Nevertheless, at the moment, everyone remains optimistic about the positive contribution that Microsoft could make to world computing access.