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Innovation By Design

Why Microsoft Research's Underseas Servers Could Be The Future of Data

Submerged data centers offer a bunch of solutions to big info-storage problems.

[Photo: Flickr user Satoshi Sawada]

Cloud computing relies on huge data centers that are difficult to protect, time-consuming to build, and expensive to cool. A team at Microsoft Research is trying to solve those issues with a concept called Project Natick. Their surprising idea: steel containers that can be submerged in the ocean. "Some people think it’s awesome, and others think we’re sort of lunatics," laughs project lead Ben Cutler, whose group created a 10-foot-long prototype that last year survived a test in the Pacific. With roughly half of the world’s population living near water, submerged data centers make sense. Water can cool servers naturally, and new centers are relatively fast and easy to build. Cutler also hopes to tap into natural energy sources such as tidal farms, making the idea as green as it is practical.

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