Microsoft moves to data centers underwater

After two years of testing, Microsoft is convinced it can build subsea data centers that are self-sustaining, green, and fail at a much lower rate than their land-based counterparts. In 2018, Microsoft commissioned the first such center near Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

After four years of research, Project Natick’s stated goal was to make data centers rapidly deployable and provide more cloud computing services to coastal regions.

In addition to reducing time, an underwater data center has the added benefit of free cooling from water, eliminating one of the largest land-based data center costs. The ocean floor is also insulated from many disasters that could affect ground-based data centers, such as wars or hurricanes, although Microsoft did not mention how difficult it would be to repair the servers inside the container if they malfunction.

In a recent blog post, Microsoft said the success of the experiment “sparked debate” about how to “serve customers who need to deploy and operate tactical and mission-critical data centers anywhere in the world.”

Microsoft said the server failure rate in undersea centers was one-eighth of what they see on land. The reasons are the lack of oxygen, which causes corrosion, and the influence of people.