In 2018, Microsoft sank a whole data center into the Scottish Sea, plunging 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of storage 117 feet deep into the ocean.
The company has announced today that its latest experiment, Natick, has been a success, disclosing results that prove that the concept of a data center underwater is actually a pretty successful one.
On the surface, it may seem crazy to throw a whole data center to the bottom of the ocean, but Microsoft’s Project Natick team predicted that placement would result in more stable and energy-efficient data centres.
On ground, data centers run into issues such as degradation from oxygen, humidity and temperature shifts. Comparatively, far fewer problems come up in a watertight system with tight temperature regulation. The idea is that such servers can be conveniently distributed in large and small sizes close to the coasts of areas that need them, offering greater local access to cloud-based services in more locations.
There are numerous advantages. Microsoft claims the data center underwater only had one-eighth of a land-based data center’s failure rate, which is a significant change. The lower failure rate is important, because it is much harder to service a broken server when it is at the bottom of the ocean in an airtight container.
Microsoft has been pursuing the idea of submerged servers for sometime now. Earlier, in 2015, it dunked a data center off California’s coast for several months as proof of concept to see if the computers can even survive the ride.
However, this round of trials was for a much longer duration, with the goal of demonstrating that the company was able to accomplish this mission on a realistic scale that could be developed and processed for real-world use.
Next, the team behind Microsoft’s Project Natick aims to experiment whether it is easy to remove and recycle the servers once they approach the end of their livecycles.