Why Microsoft's crazy under-sea data center should terrify some tech professionals


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As you may have heard, Microsoft has been testing a crazy new way to run under-water data centers that would be located at the bottom of the ocean floor, known as Project Natick.


These data centers are 100% automated, a holy grail trend in the industry known as "lights out."

That means no human IT professional running around swapping out failed hard drives or fixing a crashed server.

While data centers have grown increasingly automated, allowing them to balloon in their capacity without adding headcount to manage them, there aren't a lot of data centers with no IT personnel at all.

But that's part of Project Natick's mission:


"We see this as an opportunity to field long-lived, resilient data centers that operate 'lights out' - nobody on site - with very high reliability for the entire life of the deployment, possibly as long as 10 years," says the project.

If Microsoft can prove the concept of the lights-out, robotic data center with Project Natick, the time will surely come where the such human-less data centers are much more the norm, not the rarity.

And that's not good news for the many data center technicians who currently make their living running data centers.

Those IT professionals will be left with a couple of choices.

They could become hardware experts for the companies that make the data centers' pieces and parts. Or they could join the "software-is-eating-the-world" revolution, the field known as the "software-defined data center." That's where software controls and, in some cases replaces, the functions once done by hardware.


Microsoft Project Natick


Microsoft Project Natick

Now for the silver lining: Project Natick" could also help solve the "dirty data center" problem.

By being underwater the data center will naturally stay cooler and require less energy from the power grid.

If located in places that have access to other renewable energy sources, these data centers "could be truly zero emission: no waste products, whether due to the power generation, computers, or human maintainers are emitted into the environment," according to the project's website.

So while this development might not be so good for a certain category of IT jobs, it could be very good for the earth.


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