Microsoft sank a data center in the ocean. On purpose.

There was a time, just a few years ago, when it seemed like every major tech company was finally realizing the huge environmental footprint of their data centers. The cooling of the servers, as it had been traditionally done, required lots of water and lots of electricity, not to mention the powering of the servers themselves, which were multiplying steadily as cloud computing grew.

In the last few years we've luckily seen tech companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft take on this issue and start building innovative and more sustainable data centers. They've placed them in cooler climates to take advantage of open air cooling. They've started using more renewable energy. Microsoft has even built an entirely off-grid data center.

But there is still more work to do. Many data centers are still using the old water- and energy-hungry set ups and the demand for more servers as more data moves to the cloud keeps increasing. With this in mind, Microsoft researchers came up with an experiment to create an easily built and deployed data center that wouldn't need extra cooling and could be powered by renewable energy. And then they sank it in the ocean.

The company built an underwater data center inspired by submarines because they're built to withstand the rigors of the sea. The idea was to have a test vessel that wouldn't be very far offshore so that it could hook into the electrical grid, but in future versions, the computing would be fully powered by the water -- from the energy of the waves or tides. The data center would also be cooled by the surrounding cold water at the bottom of the ocean, cutting out that energy demand.

Half of the world's population lives within 120 miles of the ocean, so having a data center right offshore would not only provide energy and cooling, but it would also reduce latency and increase data transmission speeds.

The company deployed the test vessel in August, a 10 feet by 7 feet, 38,000-pound container that housed a server rack with the computing power of about 300 desktop PCs. The researchers monitored the container from the Microsoft campus using cameras and sensors aboard the vessel that recorded temperature, humidity and power use of the system. The data center spent 90 days on the sea floor with no human intervention other than a diver checking on the vessel once a month.

Microsoft said it's still analyzing the results of the experiment, but that it proves that data centers can be deployed quickly in this type of scenario. Most land data centers require lots of tailoring to their environment and terrain, but the underwater containers could be mass produced and deployed as needed. The test vessel only took 3 months to build.

The team is now planning to submerge a four-times larger vessel with 20 times the computing power. This time they will leave it underwater for at least a year and have it run completely on ocean power. They are currently looking at test sites.

The team says that even if for some reason underwater data centers don't end up being possible, the lessons learned from these tests, especially from having to build a data center that can be operated remotely and run on renewable energy, will bring about better, more sustainable data centers.

“We’re learning how to reconfigure firmware and drivers for disk drives, to get longer life out of them. We’re managing power, learning more about using less. These lessons will translate to better ways to operate our datacenters. Even if we never do this on a bigger scale, we’re learning so many lessons,” says Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research NEXT.

GE To Stop Producing CFLs In Favor Of LEDs

February 3rd, 2016 by Glenn Meyers 

GE will soon cease manufacturing its line of compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, as it switches favor to the manufacture of LEDs.

My, oh my! How quickly times change in this modern, energy efficient era. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) hit the market in the 1980s as an energy efficient replacement for the once-upon-a-time standard incandescent bulb.

Not so long ago, CFLs were sold as the easiest and cheapest replacement for the traditional incandescent bulb. LEDs are now a favored GE product.

GE has announced it will cease production of CFLs this year and instead switch its focus to producing LEDs.

A headline on the GE Newsroom site reads like a lover’s goodbye:

 

“Leave CFL in the Dark, and Light Up Your Love for LED”

 

“CFL, I’ll always remember the first time I saw your sweet spiral shape and the way you could light up a room. It’s bittersweet to admit that our relationship is over, but I can see clearly now that LED is my future, and my future couldn’t be brighter.”

GE reports that CFLs accounted for 30% of the US light bulb market in 2007, but 2015 sales sank to 15% of the total light bulb market. Thus it was high time to move on.

Energy efficiency aside, one difficulty with consumer acceptance of CFLs concerned the quality of the light they emitted, generally regarded as inferior to the original incandescent. Nor do the bulbs work with dimmer switches, a negative outcome for any desired mood lighting.

In addition, CFLs contain mercury, a toxic chemical. Ideally, CFLs were not supposed to be tossed out with the rest of the trash because of the toxic mercury they contained. Instead, the were supposed to be recycled. This might have sounded like a sound idea except trying to find a CFL recycler proved to be a task which rated high on the ‘nearly impossible’ list. Plus they were so small in terms of value. What recycler trying to generate a profit wants to spend the time extracting a minute amount of mercury and then resell it on the open market? Not to mention having to sort through all of those less-than-profitable slivers of broken glass.

There are few arguments about the overall quality of LEDs and their lengthy lifetime, except one: price. When the first LED bulbs hit the market, they were outrageously expensive. Now LED bulbs are considerably more affordable. Still pricey, but reasonable if considering how long they last.

Additionally, the US government introduced a new lighting specification this January, meaning “many CFLs will no longer qualify for the Energy Star rating, so it’s likely that other CFL manufacturers will follow in GE’s footsteps,” writes Darren Quick on gizmag.

The US Energy Star website states its certification means the product meets strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. “Lighting products that have earned the ENERGY STAR label deliver exceptional features, while using less energy. Saving energy helps you save money on utility bills and protects the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

 

ENERGY STAR Certified Light Bulbs:

  • Use about 70-90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs
  • Last 10 to 25 times longer and saves $30 to $80 in electricity costs over its lifetime
  • Meet strict quality and efficiency standards that are tested by accredited labs and certified by a third party
  • Produce about 70-90% less heat, so it’s safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling

Source: GE

CELEBRATING 40 Years

THANK YOU Oregon!!  

Forty years later, the team at Pacific Lamp Wholesale continues to proudly serve your lighting needs.  We are happy to report that the lighting industry is as exciting as it was the day we opened our doors.  The progression of solid state LED lighting technology and lighting controls continues to allow our team to deliver advanced lighting solutions to customers in the Portland Metro area and beyond.  Although lighting technology has changed drastically since 1976, one things remains; we are still a family-owned business devoted to delivering quality products, expert service and personalized attention for your comprehensive lighting needs.  

Stay tuned for more posts that celebrate our history and roots at Pacific Lamp Wholesale.  In the coming months, you will find information on planned specials, PLW events and miscellaneous offerings.