A Microsoft team has been working for several months on the second phase of Project Natick—an ‘undersea datacenter’ that was successfully deployed in early June 2018 off Orkney (United Kingdom). It will be remotely operated for a year. Microsoft chose the Naval Group, a French company specialized in shipbuilding and renewable marine energies, for Natick’s design, implementation, deployment and maintenance.
The underwater data centre, as powerful as several thousand individual PCs and capable of storing the equivalent of around 5 million films, was designed to remain submerged with no need for direct human intervention for 5 years. It will operate for a year, during which its performance will be monitored in real-life conditions.
The data centre is installed in an underwater cylinder inspired by Naval Group’s submarine designs, and is positioned atop a triangular base (‘subsea docking structure’). An air/water exchanger enables the data centre to be kept cool by the lower temperatures underwater. According to Microsoft, this project promises to meet the needs of its customers. An offshore data centre brings the ‘cloud’ closer to people, reducing network latency and improving reactivity (half of the world’s population lives less than 200 kilometres from the sea), and natural underwater cooling enables energy savings of up to 95%.