There are two main reasons businesses are looking at this concept as a viable data solution. (In fact, some are doing more than exploring the idea; Microsoft recently tested a wet data center, with seemingly satisfactory results). First, it’s easier to get permits to put a data center (in Microsoft’s case, a 10’x7’ shell) under water than it is to build one on land. Second, controlling the temperature of a data center, which is a real chore above water, is simpler in the colder ocean floor environment.

The term ‘wet data center’ refers to outfitting a data center in a waterproof capsule on the ocean floor.

Though it might seem harsh to some, once a wet data center is deployed, tests have shown that the environment is stable—the water temperature is constant, and storms and currents don’t affect it. One other bonus is that tidal energy can be used to power and cool the data centers. In turn, they could serve a dual purpose as artificial reefs that support the surrounding ecosystem by preventing erosion, controlling shipping lanes, and improving surf conditions. Such artificial reefs are important, but serve only that one purpose; a wet data center would serve dual purposes. 

Of course, putting a data center at the bottom of the ocean requires world-class submarine connectivity. Ciena’s GeoMesh solution converges submarine and terrestrial networks and web-scale technologies, yielding economies of scale across the entire global network that were previously impossible. The combination of coherent transport and ROADMs lowers costs and end-to-end latency—while bringing total capacities to web-scale levels.

Using Ciena’s new WaveLogic 3 Extreme coherent transmission technology, GeoMesh enables operators to adopt new global network designs while increasing ultimate segment capacity. It offers optimum performance on segments of any wet plant technology or length—up to 11,000 km.

Typically, submarine networks have been proprietary turnkey network solutions—in other words, they’ve been closed. Over the past few years, all that has changed. With the advent of coherent detection modems originally developed for long haul terrestrial networks, openness is taking hold in the submarine network industry. With the promising concept of Wet Data Centers on the horizon, network openness will be critical.