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August 5, 2017

Microsoft wants your cloud storage to sleep with the fishes, literally

by John_A

Why it matters to you

Microsoft’s plans for these undersea data centers could reduce our current reliance on massive, expensive data centers, and provide a home for endangered sea life.

As part of Microsoft’s plan to toss your data — and its data centers — into the sea, a recent patent filing illustrates just how the Redmond, Washington, company would keep your data safe in underwater data centers.

Microsoft’s underwater data center program, dubbed Project Natick, first emerged in 2016 as a way to offer an alternative to massive land-hungry server farms. It is still in the early stages, and your data is still going to reside on dry land for the time being. But according to a recent patent application, Microsoft is hard at work refining the plan and ensuring you data stays safe from marine intruders.

Landlocked data farms are easy enough to secure through typical means, but underwater data centers, designed to be fairly autonomous present a few unique challenges — like marine mammals trained to penetrate sensitive servers. Seriously.

“Because data centers may contain large amounts of valuable data, they are subject to intrusion. Submerged, or subsea data centers may be subject to intrusion by unwanted natural or man-made phenomena, in particular divers, submarines, ROVs, trained sea mammals, capture devices, or other covert attempts to access the datacenter,” reads the patent application, according to MS Power User.

So to thwart any trained otters from prying their way into these undersea data centers and pilfering your most sensitive data, Microsoft has a plan: Disguise the data centers as coral reefs. Well, there are other techniques outlined in the patent application, like intrusion detection which would scuttle the data in the event of any serious hostile intrusion.

But to protect the data centers from being targeted in the first place, Microsoft’s patent application suggests the company might clad the data centers in coral in hopes that it would not only remain hidden but also offer a refuge to adorable sea life like endangered corals.

“A data center configured for operation while submerged in water is designed to incorporate structural components and other features that actively promote marine life and attract growth of reef inhabitants,” the application reads. “Because the artificial reef data center emits little to no heat differential in the surrounding environment, natural growth of diverse reef life is provided. Further, diverse and rapid growth of reef inhabitants is actively promoted due to the structural stability and environmental conditions provided by the data center.”

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