Microsoft’s underwater data centre resurfaces after two years

Underwater data centre in Orkney.

Microsoft sank a data centre off the coast of Orkney two years ago. The objective of this experiment is to investigate the practicability of the underwater data centre in terms of energy efficiency. Microsoft has recently retrieved the data centre from the ocean floor. The Microsoft researchers will then assess its performance as well as its energy efficiency. 

Why send the data centre underwater?

Power consumption of data centres.

According to the pie chart above, the energy used for cooling is the highest. Therefore, the researcher has come out with the idea of placing the data centre underwater to cut the cost of cooling it.

Reduce failures caused by human

After assessing the performance of underwater data centre, researchers discovered it had a lower failure rate than a conventional data centre. Data has shown that just eight out of 855 serves on board had failed. 

“Our failure rate in the water is one-eighth of what we see on land,” says Ben Cutler, leader of Project Natick. 

The team is speculating that fewer failures are due to no humans on board. Besides, nitrogen was pumped rather than oxygen into the capsule also further increase the reliability of this project. Nitrogen is used to create a nitrogen atmosphere as it reduces corrosion and lessens the oxidation of the servers. 

The temperature is more stable in the ocean

The temperature in Orkney.

The researcher found out that the temperature is more stable in the ocean when compared with on land. Besides, underwater data centres can reduce the effect caused by humidity and temperature change. Orkney was chosen due to its chilly temperature and it was a centre for renewable energy research.

The white cylinder emerged from the cold waters with a coating of algae, barnacles and sea anemones.

After a long day, the outer surface of the data centre emerged from the cold waters with a coating of algae, barnacles and sea anemones. However, the data inside it was still functioning well.

Reliably green

Project Natick was working out to determine whether clusters of small underwater data centres for short-term use is applicable. 

Even though the electricity of Orkney all comes from wind and solar power. However, there were no issues in keeping the power supply of the underwater data centre. 

“We have been able to run well on what most land-based data centres consider an unreliable grid,” says one of the members of the technical team.

An underwater data centre might sound like a ridiculous idea at first. However, David Ross, an experienced consultant to the data centre industry stated that this project has great potential. Furthermore, underwater data centres are flexible and cost-effective, making it attractive to countries facing a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

Microsoft is cautious when they announced that the underwater data center is a commercial product. Nevertheless, they are confident that they have proved the value of this idea.


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  1. BBC-Microsoft’s underwater data centre resurfaces after two years
  2. BBC-Microsoft sinks data centre off Orkney

Prepared by: Anne



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