A cloud in the ocean

Technology company Microsoft has thrown a data centre into the ocean to test a new plan for more efficient working of these centres. Data centres are stacks of computers that act as a library of online information stored by companies and individuals (your email for example is stored at a Google or Yahoo data centre). But why did Microsoft pitch its computers into the ocean? Read on to find out.

Why dump a computer in the water?

A huge challenge in running data centres is the amount of heat that the computers inside generate. Have you noticed how a laptop or computer gets warm when used for some time? Just multiply that effect hundreds of times to understand how hot data centres can get. Such heat is very harmful for the computers.
Companies cool their data centres by installing powerful air conditioning systems. This costs a lot of money plus, all those air conditioners are not environment friendly as they use up a lot of electricity.

So, Microsoft decided to put the data centre on the ocean floor where cold temperatures would keep the computers naturally cool. The plus point? Ocean currents (the movement of water in the ocean) could also be tapped to generate electricity to run the data centres. That is two problems solved with one solution.

The undersea project

So, about three months ago, a server rack with the power of about 300 computers was placed in a water-tight steel cylinder and lowered into the ocean off the coast of central California. The experiment was so successful that Microsoft decided to run the underwater data centre for 75 extra days and it even stored some live data (information that is being used by Microsoft customers on land) on it.
What’s next?

Now, the company plans to send down an ever bigger set of computers underwater. The bigger centre will also have turbines (a machine) that will convert the energy of the ocean water into electricity for use by the data centre.

If these experiments are successful, it could lead to a lot of computers going underwater. Care has to be taken though that such human projects do not disturb underwater wildlife and fish.