Is the Future of Data Centers in Space?

Moving the Cloud to Outer Space

Data centers can currently be found on land around the world, with more and more  popping up all the time. Because a lot of land is being used for them already, Microsoft is making industry waves by running trials of sealed data centers in the ocean. In fact, the tech giant has already filed an application to patent an Artificial Reef Datacenter, an underwater cloud with a cooling system that uses the ocean as a giant heat exchanger and intrusion detection for submerged data centers (you can learn more about Project Natick here). So, with an underwater cloud quickly becoming reality, is space the next—or final—frontier?

SpaceX: Mission Possible

It’s not such a crazy idea. Satellites are already used for communications including: internet connectivity, navigation, and broadcasting. Plus, SpaceX has made reaching for the stars “cool” again. SpaceX, of course, is the aerospace company headed up by Elon Musk, and is the world’s fastest growing provider of launch services. To date, SpaceX has secured over 100 missions, including commercial satellite launches, and U.S. government launches. The company’s endgame is to be able to carry humans to Mars and other destinations in the solar system, so before that happens, why not launch some data center infrastructure into space? After all, the sun could power the data center and the cold vacuum of space could cool it. There would also be little chance of natural disaster shutting down the data center, outside of a solar flare or a meteorite. Sounds like a win-win!

Bezos Goes Blue

Of course, Musk isn’t the only billionaire entering today’s version of the “space race.” Amazon Web Services (AWS) founder Jeff Bezos also has plans to preserve the Earth. He hopes to achieve this by one day sending millions of people to live and work in space, calling it “the most important work he’s doing.” But in the meantime, his company Blue Origin is dedicated to creating low-cost space infrastructure, which includes building reusable rockets that can dramatically reduce costs. If space-based data centers are to become a reality, there’s a good chance Bezos would be behind it.

ConnectX Takes Off

Other startups may also be looking to get in on the action. ConnectX is a private network of small satellites and servers that store digital currency wallets. The advantage, the company says, is that the servers cannot be physically accessed. Should space-based data centers become a reality, you can bet ConnectX will be in the game.

The Problem with Space-Based Data Centers

Of course, there’s one (big) hitch when it comes to the space-based data center. Unlike underwater centers which could conceivably be raised, or made accessible for human entry, data centers launched into space would have to essentially be maintenance free. That’s quite a hurdle to overcome (and sending out IT astronauts for repair or maintenance missions is not going to happen—nor would it be cost effective!). Plus, many organizations like to know exactly where their data is stored and have the ability to visit a physical location where they can see their servers whirring away.

The idea of space-based data centers is a tantalizing one, but for now—and until a lot of kinks are worked out—data centers will continue to pepper the landscape (and maybe the ocean floor). If you’re looking for a land-based data center in which to store your data in the cloud, DSM can help. Our data centers are highly secure and located outside of flood zones, in hurricane-rated structures, with redundant N+1 generators, uninterruptible power supplies, computer room A/C units, and dual authentication security. Contact DSM, Florida’s predictable cloud provider, to learn more.

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