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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Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

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Design
A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”

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