After the Cloud, now come the Waves. Is the future of cloud computing at sea? It seems so, now that Microsoft has come up with a radical way to store data: under the surface of the sea. And only a few years ago, Google tested a floating datacenter.
There is a lot to gain with underwater datacenters. One of two people in the world live within 200 kilometers of the coast, so their communication with datacenters covers a short distance. And that lowers latency – the time it takes data to travel from its source to customers. Also, building space on land close to cities is limited. The sea provides much more space.
What is more, putting the datacenter in the ocean eliminates the need for cooling, and, in future, if such centers could be expanded, renewable energy sources such as the tide or the wind, they could emit less CO2. Microsoft’s first underwater datacenter operated 1 kilometer off the Californian coast from August to December 2015 and is now back ashore for analysis.
Google was the first to set out for the sea. In 2009, the company had been awarded a U.S. patent for its floating data centers that are powered by waves and cooled by sea water. These datacenters could be very attractive because at sea there are no real estate costs or property taxes. The offshore data centers would site 5 to 10 kilometers offshore and float in about 50 to 70 meters of water. It is not clear if the tech giant ever proceeded on this course.
The computing at sea concept adds a new dimension to connectivity. These datacenters need to get connected. And you can imagine that positioning sea datacenters on top of, or close to a subsea transit cable favors transmission speeds and low latency. When will the first Internet Exchange dive into the deep?
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