Several years ago, Microsoft got the ball rolling on a very interesting project: undersea data centers. It’s been a while since we last heard from this initiative, called Project Natick, but now Microsoft has announced a major milestone for it. The company has sunk a new data center off the coast of Scotland’s Orkney Islands, and assuming everything goes smoothly, it’ll be on the ocean floor for at least the next five years.
The data center that went under is essentially a 40-foot long tank that’s packed with 12 racks and a total of 864 servers. The data center will be powered by renewable energy generated on the Orkney Islands, specifically the European Marine Energy Center, which researches tidal and wave power. An undersea cable powers the data center, providing it with an internet connection as well.
There are two major goals with Microsoft’s Project Natick. Microsoft is looking for ways to provide better internet connections to coastal cities, where half of the world’s population is located. By sinking undersea data centers near these coastal cities, Microsoft enables faster web surfing, video streaming, and game playing, while also bolstering cloud-based AI capabilities.
Putting data centers underwater could potentially cut back on maintenance costs as well, particularly when it comes to keeping those data centers cool. Cooling is one of the biggest costs associated with operating a conventional data center, so if submersing them can help save in that area, it’s good news indeed.
Microsoft’s Project Natick team will spend the next year closely monitoring the data center’s performance, and should everything go according to plan, it’ll be operational for up to five years before it needs maintenance. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of progress Microsoft makes with Project Natick in the coming years, but for now, you can head over to Microsoft’s site to read more about this data center in particular.