IEEE profiles Microsoft's underwater data centers - Smart Energy Decisions

Commercial, Demand Management, Industrial  -  February 22, 2017

Microsoft team details underwater data center benefits

Want an energy efficient data center? Build it underwater, say four Microsoft employees in the title of an article they wrote for engineering and applied sciences magazine IEEE Spectrum. 

As part of Microsoft Corp.'s focus on the environmental impact of its business, the company has been experimenting with siting data centers on ocean floors in an effort to eliminate the need for air conditioning, which is a costly and energy-intensive component of traditional data center operation. The pilots were featured about a year ago in The New York Times.  

At the time, Microsoft said the additional benefits of underwater data centers included locating them in closer proximity to highly populated coastal areas and the ability to rapidly deploy them; mass production of the components needed for underwater centers could cut deployment time from two years to 90 days, according to the Times.  

The authors of the article published by IEEE Spectrum go deeper, rationalizing the idea with even more benefits and the science behind them. They also outlined how the idea to place data centers underwater came about following the internal circulation of a white paper within the company written by two of its engineers —Sean James and Todd Rawlings — and how Microsoft's corporate culture brought the idea to life. The group wrote:

At many large companies, such outlandish ideas might have died a quiet death. But Microsoft researchers have a history of tackling challenges of vital importance to the company in innovative ways, even if the required work is far outside of Microsoft’s core expertise. The key is to assemble engineering teams by uniting Microsoft employees with colleagues from partner companies. The four of us formed the core of just such a team, one charged with testing James’s far-out idea.





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