How to build a data-centre underwater
如何建立水下数据中心

水下更好 Better down where it’s wetter-书迷号 shumihao.com

EARLIER THIS year a ship hauled a large, barnacle-covered cylinder sporting a Microsoft logo from the seas off the Orkney islands. Inside were a dozen server racks, of the sort found in data-centres around the world. Sunk in 2018, and connected to the shore by cable, the computers had spent the past couple of years humming away, part of an experiment into the feasibility of building data-centres underwater.
今年早些时候,一艘船从奥克尼群岛(Orkney)附近海域拖出了一个附满藤壶、带有微软标识的大型圆柱体。它里头装着十几个服务器机架——在世界各地的数据中心中都看得到的那种。这些计算机于2018年沉入大海,通过电缆连接到岸上,过去两年里一直在嗡嗡不停地工作。这是建立水下数据中心可行性实验的一部分。

On September 14th Microsoft revealed some results. The aquatic data-centre suffered equipment failures at just one-eighth the rate of those built on land. Being inaccessible to humans, the firm could fill it with nitrogen instead of air, cutting down corrosion. The lack of human visitors also meant none of the bumping and jostling that can cause faults on land.
微软于9月14日公布了部分实验结果。这个水下数据中心的设备故障率仅为陆上数据中心的八分之一。由于人类无法进入,微软可以向里面注入氮气而不是空气,从而减少腐蚀。没有人类访客也意味着不会发生任何在陆地上会导致故障的磕磕碰碰。

Microsoft hopes some of the lessons can be applied to existing, land-based data-centres. In the longer term, though, it notes that building underwater offers advantages beyond just reliability. Immersion in seawater helps with cooling, a big expense on land. Data-centres work best when placed close to customers. Land in New York or London is expensive, but nearby sea-floor is cheap. More than half the world’s population lives within 120 miles (192km) of the sea. Ben Cutler, the engineer in charge of the project, says submarine data-centres could be co-located with offshore wind farms as “anchor” customers. The cylinder fits in a standard shipping container, so could be deployed to remote places like islands, or even disaster areas to support relief efforts. Water and electronics, it seems, do sometimes mix.■
微软希望实验得出的一些经验可以应用于现有的陆上数据中心。不过微软指出,长远来看水下数据中心的优势不仅仅在于可靠性。浸在海水中有利于机器冷却,这在陆地上是一笔不小的费用。数据中心在位置靠近客户时效果最佳。纽约或伦敦寸土寸金,但附近的海底价格低廉。全球超过一半的人口居住在距海岸120英里(192公里)以内的地方。负责该项目的工程师本·卡特勒(Ben Cutler)表示,海底数据中心可以作为“固定”客户和海上风电场建在一起。这个圆柱体能装进标准船运集装箱,因此可以部署到岛屿等偏远地区,甚至放到灾区支持救援工作。这么看来,水和电子设备有时也能混在一块儿。