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What can we learn from Microsoft’s underwater data center experiment?

Project Natick has made serious waves in the data center industry over the past two months. Natick is the name of Microsoft’s subsea data center research project. The project aims to cut the costs of cooling modern infrastructure. And, it may yield a service that offers content providers extra capacity in proximity of billions of end users. So what can we learn from Project Natick that can be applied to data centers currently?

Although the project is in its infancy, there are several takeaways for data center operators. First, cooling costs are a serious concern. Since most data centers will continue to operate on land for the foreseeable future, it’s an issue that will need to be tackled sooner rather than later.   

A thermostat is rarely the best indicator of conditions at the rack.  So, data centers would be wise to invest in environmental sensors.  Sensors are capable of taking real-time readings that sync to DCIM monitoring software. The data that’s amassed makes it easier to make smart decisions: Should certain high density equipment be grouped together? Should CRACs and CRAHs be adjusted? Etc…

The second takeaway is that data centers are becoming more widely distributed geographically. This isn’t a shock given the rise of cloud computing, and edge and colo data centers over the last few years. But, it does raise the important question of how best to administer equipment remotely.

There are many options to consider including RDP, VNC, and embedded service processors. Although both software tools and ESPs offer many advantages, they can’t offer the reliability of a remote access tool like KVM. For those planning a remote lights-out deployment; or an underwater one someday, this shouldn’t be ignored.

Will Project Natick change the data center industry? Maybe. But for now, it’s in most data centers’ best interest to meet the challenges that exist today.

Article by Michael Bord, Raritan 

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