Promising results from Microsoft’s underwater data center experiment
Back on dry land after spending two years submerged in the waters off the Scottish coast, Project Natick, Microsoft’s experimental underwater data center prototype, was considered a success.
First unveiled in 2016, Project Natick is Microsoft’s effort to determine the feasibility of underwater data centers powered by offshore renewables. This involved sinking a sealed, container-sized metal data center module in the North Sea in the spring of 2018, which was recently resurfaced on July 9.
The idea was to avoid common data center issues such as jostling workers, corrosion, temperature fluctuations, etc.
With only “a handful” of failed servers and associated cables found, researchers believe servers in undersea data centers could be eight times more reliable than their terrestrial counterparts, Microsoft said in a September 14 article. “Microsoft Finds Underwater Data Centers Reliable, Convenient, and Use Energy Sustainably. ”
Another potential benefit is plenty of other localization possibilities that could improve IT, as Microsoft noted. “More than half of the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the coast. By placing data centers underwater near coastal towns, data would have a short distance to travel, allowing for fast and smooth web browsing, video streaming and gaming. ”
The project’s website indicates that the expected maintenance-free operating life could be up to five years.
“We are now on the verge of trying to exploit what we have done rather than feeling the need to go out and prove more,” project leader Ben Cutler said in the article. “We did what we needed to do. Natick is a key element the company can use if appropriate.”
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