Microsoft trials underwater data centres

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Microsoft trials underwater data centres
Project Natick being submerged. Source: Microsoft

Four months in the sea with Project Natick.

Microsoft is exploring the possibility of using resilient data centres submerged in the sea for quick provisioning facilities that offer lower costs, better responsiveness and environmental sustainability.

Called Project Natick, Microsoft researchers submerged a data centre in August last year, one kilometre off the coast of California, and operated it for four months.

The idea stems from a paper submitted to Microsoft Research's ThinkWeek internal dialogue forum, by data centre research program manager Sean James, in 2013.

Two of the key benefits of submersible data centres for customers are rapid deployment in 90 days and low latency, as facilities can be placed closer to users, Microsoft said. The surrounding water provides cooling for the data centre, which Microsoft expects to be powered by renewable energy sources.

Microsoft said it envisions Project Natick in a cloud-based future, deployed in areas that have large bodies of water. Around half of humanity lives close to the sea or lakes, Microsoft said.

The submersible data centre was originally named after an Xbox game character, Leona Philpot.

The facilities are designed to have five-year deployment cycles, with a total target lifespan of 20 years. They are designed to be retrieved and recycled.

There is currently no timeframe for the commercial deployment of Project Natick submersible data centres. Microsoft said it is exploring the feasibility and business acceptability of sunk data centres, and said it was still early days for such facilities.

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