Microsoft and Naval Group have successfully deployed an underwater data centre off the Orkney archipelago.
The data centre, known as Project Natick, will be operated “lights-out” for one year. A lights out data centre is a server or computer room that is physically or geographically isolated to prevent environmental fluctuations and human access. This saves unnecessary energy normally used for lighting and for maintaining a proper climate around frequently used doors.
"Project Natick reflects Microsoft’s ongoing quest for cloud data centre solutions that offer less resource intensive options, rapid provisioning, lower costs, and high agility in meeting customer needs," Ben Cutler, Project Natick Manager at Microsoft Research said.
"A key advantage is getting closer to our customers: half the world’s population lives within 200 km of the sea, so placing data centres offshore increases the proximity of the cloud to the population, reducing latency and providing better responsiveness. And by deploying in the water we benefit from ready access to cooling – reducing the requirement for energy for cooling by up to 95 per cent."
The underwater data centre is as powerful as several thousand consumer PCs, with enough storage for about five million movies.
The electronics are contained in a submersible cylindrical system. A triangular base (also called a subsea docking structure) positions the data centre at the bottom of the ocean. A dual air-water system takes advantage of the temperature of the underwater environment to cool the internal tech.
Naval Group and its subsidiary Naval Energies adapted existing technologies to design the Project Natick data centre structure.
"We are proud to bring Naval Group's expertise on design, implementation, deployment and maintenance of innovative projects in maritime environments to the service of Microsoft," Eric Papin, Naval Group's Director of Innovation and Technological Expertise, said. "We are pleased to participate in Microsoft’s vision for a clean energy future."
The underwater datacenter is designed to remain immersed for 5 years.