Microsoft has recovered a data center that was sunk off the Orkney Islands back in May 2018 for Project Natick.
The container was retrieved from the seabed and the Microsoft team found that only eight out of the 855 servers inside had failed, leading them to conclude that it had a lower failure rate than a conventional land-based data center.
The datacenter is 40-foot long and loaded with 12 racks containing a total of 855 servers.
Microsoft adapted a heat-exchange process commonly used for cooling submarines to the underwater datacenter. The system pipes seawater directly through the radiators on the back of each of the 12 server racks and back out into the ocean.
The retrieval launched the final phase of a years-long effort that proved the concept of underwater datacenters is feasible, as well as logistically, environmentally and economically practical.
Microsoft’s Project Natick team deployed the Northern Isles datacenter 117 feet deep to the seafloor.
Project Natick has now got the Microsoft team thinking that the greater reliability may be linked to the fact that there were no humans in the capsule, and that nitrogen – rather than oxygen – was released inside.
Microsoft’s Ben Cutler explained: “We think it has to do with this nitrogen-rich atmosphere that reduces corrosion and is cool, plus there were no people banging things about!”
The Orkney Islands might seen an odd place for such a project, but the location was chosen because it is a renowned center for renewable energy research – all of the islands’ electricity comes from wind and solar power – and in a place with a temperate climate, which assisted with ‘cooling’ the computers underwater.
More than half the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the coast. By putting datacenters underwater near coastal cities, data would have a short distance to travel, leading to fast and smooth web surfing, video streaming and game playing.
Microsoft news article