For sustainable society


Set up a data center in the sea!?

Water is the worst thing for a computer. Nonetheless, Microsoft actually did the quirky idea of setting up a data center underwater. This seemingly eccentric idea actually gave the company a lot of learning.

The eccentric idea “Project Natic” conducted its first phase of experimentation in 2015. It was to submerge a small pressure vessel containing multiple servers in the Pacific Ocean, which was completed with very good results. Based on the results, Microsoft started the second stage experiment in June 2018. The experiment was conducted at a depth of 117 feet from the Orkney Islands in Scotland. This location was chosen because Scotland has the European Marine Energy Center and already has facilities to supply solar and ocean renewable energy to containers, including servers. In the second phase, the data center was pulled up in early summer 2020 and the results of several months of analysis were announced in September.

Good results were also reported in the second stage experimental results. First, The failure rate is as low as one-eighth that of a typical data center operating on the ground, and high reliability and practicality have been confirmed. This is probably because the nitrogen gas filled in the container is less corrosive than oxygen and no one was able to shock the device. Also, the underwater environment reduces the need for artificial cooling of the server and increases energy efficiency. Also, if it sinks to the seabed, parts replacement will not be easy, and the number of parts replacements can be reduced.

In addition to improving failure rates and energy efficiency, by setting up a data center in the sea near a city where many people live, it will be possible to enjoy website browsing, video streaming, online games, etc. at a higher speed.

▶︎Project Natick


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