In spring 2018, Microsoft Project Natick team sunk an entire data center to the bottom of the Scottish sea, plunging 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of storage 117 feet deep in the ocean. And for the next 2 years, team members tested and monitored the performance and reliability of the datacenter’s servers.
Microsoft has reported that its latest experiment was a success, revealing findings that show that the idea of an underwater datacenter is feasible, as well as logistically, environmentally, and economically practical.
Throwing an entire data center to the bottom of the ocean may seem unusual, however, Microsoft’s Project Natick team hypothesized that a sealed container on the ocean floor could provide results in more reliable and energy-efficient data centers.
On land, data centers run into issues like, corrosion from oxygen and humidity, temperature fluctuations, and bumps and jostles from people who replace broken components are all variables that can contribute to equipment failure. But in a water-tight environment with tight temperature control, far fewer issues crop up. The concept is that these kinds of servers can be easily deployed in sizes big and small near the coasts of areas that need them, giving better local access to cloud-based resources in more places.
Microsoft says the underwater data center had just one-eighth the failure rate of a land-based data center, a dramatic improvement. That lower failure rate is great, however, it’s more difficult to service a busted server when it’s in an airtight container at the bottom of the ocean.
Back in 2015, the company dunked a data center off the coast of California for several months as a proof of concept to see if the computers would even survive the trip.
But this time it was for a far greater amount of time, though, to prove that the company could accomplish this task on a practical scale that could be manufactured and produced for real-world use.
Next Microsoft’s Project Natick team: showing that the servers can be easily removed and recycled once they reach the end of their life.
Cover Image: Microsoft