Microsoft Tests Undersea Data Center

Microsoft Tests Undersea Data Center
The Project Natick cylinder will use the surrounding sea water to provide natural cooling.

(CCM) — Microsoft has started testing a new energy-efficient data center which is sitting on the seabed off the coast of Orkney.

The data center, called Project Natick, takes the form of a white metal cylinder containing 12 racks of servers. It also has cable connections to provide power and to transfer data. Cooling costs account for a significant proportion of the total cost of running traditional data centers, but the undersea data center will be cooled by the seawater that surrounds it.

Since there are no people in the cylinder, all the oxygen and most of the water vapour can be removed from it. This reduces corrosion, which can be a significant problem in data centers, according to a BBC report on the cylinder. But it also means that it is not possible to repair the servers if any components break.

Project Natick will be monitored for a period of five years, and if it is successful then Microsoft plans to establish new data centers in groups of five cylinders which will be deployable at 90 days' notice, the report says.

Some commentators have warned that the use of undersea data centers will result in rising sea temperatures, but Ben Cutler, the manager of Project Natick, said that the warming effect will be negligable. "The water just metres downstream would get a few thousandths of a degree warmer at most," he said in the report.

Image: © Microsoft.