In 2018, Microsoft deployed a datacenter 117 feet deep in the water. Microsoft’s Project Natick intended to see if underwater datacenters were feasible. Well, now the company has retrieved the datacenter from the depths and it says that the concept of underwater datacenters is feasible.
Microsoft’s Project Natick team had tested and monitored the performance of the Northern Isles datacenter since submerging it in the spring of 2018. The project wanted to test a hypothesis that a datacenter sealed in a container on the ocean floor could be an option to improve the overall reliability of datacenters. Various environmental and human factors contribute to datacenter-related equipment failure on land.
The success of the project has kick-started a new discussion at Microsoft about the need to deploy datacenters to serve customers anywhere in the world.
“The Northern Isles was deployed at the European Marine Energy Centre, a test site for tidal turbines and wave energy converters. Tidal currents there travel up to 9 miles per hour at peak intensity and the sea surface roils with waves that reach more than 60 feet in stormy conditions,” explained Microsoft’s blog.
The datacenter was retrieved by some robots in calm conditions. The Northern Isles datacenter surfaced with a thin coat of algae and barnacles. But Microsoft was surprised by how clean the container looked.
The datacenter was in an atmosphere of nitrogen for the entire duration of the submersion. The company believes that its analysis of the retrieved datacenter could be important for the future of datacenters on land. The hardware retrieved could help researchers understand why underwater datacenters are eight times more reliable than their land counterparts.