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By Ather Fawaz
Microsoft's Project Natick finds that underwater datacenters are reliable and effective
by Ather Fawaz
Image via Microsoft Project Natick is Microsoft's research project to determine the feasibility of underwater datacenters that are powered by offshore renewable energy. These datacenters have been hailed as a promising venture in Microsoft's future in cloud computing when back in 2018, CEO Satya Nadella emphasized that the future of datacenter deployment lies in underwater server pods. Besides promising faster deployment, one of the primary advantages of this setup is the fact that by positioning datacenters closer to coastal settlements, we can reduce latency due to transmission delays.
Back in spring 2018, to test whether submerging a datacenter could improve its reliability, researchers lowered Microsoft's Northern Isles datacenter 117 feet underwater to the seafloor near the Orkney Islands in Scotland. After a lengthy period of testing involving the 864 servers onboard, on July 9, the datacenter was recovered and Microsoft has now finally revealed what it has learned from its experimentation.
The Project Natick researchers announced that their initial hypothesis was indeed correct. Underwater datacenters can improve the reliability of datacenters while being powered by offshore renewable energy. This is majorly due to the fact that land datacenters suffer from natural phenomena like temperature fluctuations, corrosion, and humidity, which lead to frequent equipment failure, and subsequently, the need for regular maintenance. But underwater, they are in a relatively cooler environment that is less prone to such factors. In fact, the cooler environment underwater allows for energy-efficient heat-exchange plumbing that can further lower operational costs.
Image via Microsoft Microsoft states that Natick Northern Isles datacenter had a failure rate of 1/8th that of the land-based control group that it was compared with. This showcases the practicality and reliability of hosting underwater datacenters that serve our cloud computing needs. The Redmond giant had already gauged its deployment speed back in 2018. While deploying a land-based data center can take up to two years due to the expensive cooling and land requirements, among others, underwater datacenters can instead be deployed in 90 days. This is what the company did back in 2018 in Scotland.
Image via Microsoft Interestingly, during its tenure in Scotland, the datacenter was also used to perform COVID-19 research for Folding@Home and World Community Grid during testing. Perhaps most importantly, the datacenter ran entirely on wind, solar, and other experimental green energies that are currently under development at the deployment site. This crucially ties in with Microsoft's pledge to go carbon-negative by 2030 before removing all its carbon emissions that it's ever produced from the atmosphere by 2050.
Image via Microsoft Talks between Project Natick researchers and Microsoft Azure officials for commercial deployment are already underway. Scaling considerations to power Microsoft Azure services are being discussed together with the prospect of positioning datacenters closer to customers. Since half the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the coast, underwater datacenters could enable a smoother and more stable internet experience in tasks ranging from video streaming to gaming to general web surfing.
Image via Microsoft But perhaps these underwater server pods offer much more. Just a few hours back, Google announced that the firm will only tap renewable power by 2030. One of the logistical challenges associated with that move will be to relocate some of its datacenters. With Microsoft's Project Natick providing a potent alternative that promises reliability and deployment speed while operating on renewable energy, we could have a potential solution onboard.
Nintendo reportedly asking developers to make games "4K-ready"
by João Carrasqueira
Nintendo has often been speculated to be working on hardware revisions of the Switch hybrid console, and to some extent, those rumors have turned out to be true. Last month, the idea of a Switch revision resurfaced when a report claimed that the company is planning a Switch revision for 2021, with an improved display and "improved interactivity".
Now, a new Bloomberg report suggests 4K support for the revision. The report doesn't go deep into details, but it cites sources at several third-party developers saying Nintendo has asked them to make their games 4K-ready. Considering the Switch currently only renders games at 1080p, at best, 4K support would be a major upgrade, especially considering it's just a mid-life hardware refresh.
Previously, Nintendo has been reported to be working on a strong lineup of games to go along with the new Switch model, which could help drive its sales. It makes sense for these games to offer something on the new hardware that you wouldn't get with a regular Switch, but whether that includes 4K support remains to be seen.
The report otherwise focuses on production of the current Switch models, which Nintendo is said to be increasing by 20%, with assembling factories now "working at 120%". In its quarterly earnings report in August, the company posted sales numbers that doubled the same period of last year, and it would seem that momentum isn't slowing down soon. According to analysts, the Switch won't be significantly affected by the next generation of consoles, and demand for the Switch is likely to increase even more towards the end of the year. The company is said to be selling as many as 30 million units of the Switch this fiscal year.
After a somewhat quiet year, Nintendo has started to open up about its plans for the final months of 2020, with new Mario games coming over the next few months, Pikmin 3 Deluxe launching on October 30, and most recently, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was announced for November 20. These new titles are likely to help the company drive sales through the end of the year.
Nintendo brings Mario Kart to your home with Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
by João Carrasqueira
Nintendo unleashed an array of announcements during its special Direct presentation focused on the 35th anniversary of Mario. Among them was Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, a new experience that brings Mario Kart into players' homes, in a more physical manner.
The game is sold in a set that includes a toy kart, either driven by Mario or Luigi, depending on the chosen set, and a number of checkpoint goals. The checkpoints can be placed around a room in your house, and players can use physical objects to limit the kart's ability to drive outside of the set course. The kart is then driven using the Nintendo Switch, and it has a camera that gives players a driver's view of the track.
Staple Mario Kart features are still here, like items that can be used to attack other racers, which are fully virtual. However, it's also possible to connect with other users who have the game and their own kart, allowing for multiplayer matches to take place. Items impact virtual and physical players alike, with karts coming to a halt when players are hit by an item in the game.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is coming to the Nintendo Switch on October 16.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars brings Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy to the Switch
by João Carrasqueira
During a special Direct presentation held today to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., Nintendo announced Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a collection of games that has long been rumored.
The title contains three classic 3D Mario games - Super Mario 64 from the Nintendo 64, Super Mario Sunshine originally for the GameCube, and Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii. These are arguably the most significant outings in the franchise, though the collection skips out on Super Mario Galaxy 2, possibly to avoid including two very similar experiences in the same package.
The games will look pretty much how you remember them, and Nintendo hasn't done a lot to improve them. Controls have naturally been tweaked to fit the Switch hardware, the resolution has been increased, and - for Super Mario Sunshine - the games will now run in 16:9 aspect ratio, rather than 4:3 like the originals. Super Mario 64 didn't get upgraded to 16:9, and Super Mario Galaxy was already 16:9 on the Wii, so that remains true here.
The package also includes the soundtracks for each of the games, with each game sorted as its own album. Fans of the music in Mario games will be able to listen to them whenever
Super Mario 3D All-Stars is launching as a limited retail run later this month on September 18, and the digital version will only be available through March 31, 2021, so you'll need to grab it quickly if you're interested.
Update: The original article incorrectly stated that Super Mario 64 had been upgraded to run in the 16:9 aspect ratio. Only Super Mario Sunshine has seen this change, though Super Mario 64 does have higher resolution than the original release.
Nintendo announces Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury for the Switch
by João Carrasqueira
Nintendo today held a surprise Direct presentation specifically focusing on the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., and with it came a ton of announcements. One of the games announced today is Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury. The game is an enhanced version of Super Mario 3D World, which originally released on the Wii U.
Super Mario 3D World is a multiplayer 3D platformer, and the first of its kind for Mario, allowing up to four players to traverse the campaign together. With the new Switch release, in addition to local multiplayer, players will be able to team up online to play through the game. Outside of Super Mario Maker, mainline series games in the Mario franchise have never featured online cooperative play.
This version also includes additional content, as indicated by the Bowser's Fury part of the name. Nintendo didn't share much in the way of details about this new content, but it did show Cat Mario in a stormy scenery in front of a Bowser-shaped structure.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is coming to the Nintendo Switch on February 12, 2021, and digital preorders are live on the Nintendo eShop right now.