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Microsoft Is Taking Cloud Computing to the Ocean Floor

Half of the world's population lives within about 124 miles of the ocean, according to Microsoft's Project Natick. The company has been experimenting with the idea of moving datacenters into the sea, where they will be closer to customers and thus require shorter connecting data cables. The first prototype for an underwater data center was successfully dropped to the ocean floor for 105 days, and now Microsoft is hoping to use observations from the project to improve how we access the cloud.

Project Natick, which started in 2013, is focused on improving several aspects of cloud computing, from getting data to devices faster to making the process more environmentally sustainable. Typically, datacenters are large facilities that house row after row of server racks where data is stored and transferred, but they are expensive to operate and not always in the most central geographic locations.

In the video above, which explains the project and shows the prototype building and deployment processes, Kramer explains that the plan to move datacenters closer to where the customers are "made a great amount of sense."

Last year, after months of planning and building, Project Natick took a 38,000-pound container holding a working datacenter—named Leona Philpot after a character from the Halo video game franchise—and successfully dropped it into the Pacific Ocean half a mile away from land. Inside was a single server rack surrounded by a cooling system and various electronic components that control the datacenter. The container was left in the ocean for three months while Project Natick collected data on the speed of the current, the temperature and humidity, and how much power the servers used. 

Peter Lee, Corporate VP of Microsoft Research, said that what the team is learning from the experiment will be more valuable than the achievement of doing it. "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."

Next up: Microsoft plans to build another prototype that is three times larger than the first, according to The Verge, and to begin new ocean trials by next year.

Banner image via YouTube

[h/t The Verge]

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By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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History
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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