Microsoft Is Taking the Cloud to New Depths
Tech giant is testing undersea data centers
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2016 10:03 AM CST
This 2015 photo shows Quicken Loans Technology Center's 66,000-square-foot data center in Detroit. Microsoft is looking to take such data centers underwater.   (Max Ortiz/Detroit News via AP)

(Newser) – One of these days, the cloud may be underwater. In what the New York Times calls "taking a page from Jules Verne," Microsoft has tested a prototype of an underwater data center powered by renewable energy generated by ocean movement. One of the big benefits of housing data centers under cold ocean water: You don't need 24/7 air conditioning to cool servers. Another benefit is the relatively close proximity of large urban populations to oceans, as opposed to today's data centers in out-of-the way places with plenty of room. The closer the user is to the data center, the less delay in streaming video or using social media. One Microsoft engineer working on the project—dubbed Project Natick—tells the Times his first impression was: "Water, electricity … why would you do that." But, he says, "it actually makes a lot of sense."

Microsoft believes that using mass-produced underwater capsules could cut the time it takes to deploy a data center from two years to 90 days. For now, though, Project Natick has a single prototype named Leona Philpot, a character from Microsoft's Halo. The prototype spent 105 days between August and November in 30 feet of water in the Pacific Ocean off San Luis Obispo, Calif. Leona performed well, per the Times. The next step is building a larger system and testing it next year. While Microsoft is going underwater to improve the cloud, Google and Facebook are taking to the sky to deliver the Internet, Venture Beat reports. Google, for instance is working on a project called SkyBender in New Mexico, the Guardian reports. The gist? Solar-powered drones delivering high-speed Internet from the sky.