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Microsoft's Project Natick puts data centers underwater

Microsoft researchers are currently testing a prototype of an underwater data center. Dubbed Project Natick, the data centers are quickly deployable, do not require cooling, and use renewable energy for power. With half of the world's population located within 200 kilometers of the ocean, Microsoft is looking to place data centers near users to dramatically lower latency when providing cloud-based solutions.

Says Microsoft:

Project Natick is a Microsoft research project to manufacture and operate an underwater datacenter. The initial experimental prototype vessel, christened the Leona Philpot after a popular Xbox game character, was operated on the seafloor approximately one kilometer off the Pacific coast of the United States from August to November of 2015. Project Natick reflects Microsoft's ongoing quest for cloud datacenter solutions that provide rapid provisioning, lower costs, high responsiveness, and are more environmentally sustainable.

Microsoft's goal with Project Natick is sustainability, with the Redmond giant stating that the data centers do not create any waste products. As they're unmanned and submerged, they also do not require any cooling solutions, with power generation for the servers provided through a turbine or a tidal energy system. the first vessel, Leona Philpot, was set 30 feet underwater off the coast of California for four months, and is now back at Redmond for analysis.

Each Natick data center deployment is estimated to last five years, after which it will be retrieved and fitted with new hardware. Microsoft says that a data center has a lifespan of at least 20 years, after which it will be recycled. The project itself is still in the research stages, but it could be a forward-looking solution to deal with the rising energy demands at data centers.

Project Natick at Microsoft

66 Comments
  • Pretty forward thinking indeed. Although I wonder what the contingency plans are to with deal with storms, volcanic activity due to tectonic movement etc. Then again they most likely have got that covered :p.
  • The land ones will still be there :)
  • Don't put them next to volcanoes sounds like a good plan to me? :p  Tectonic movement (burial from sediment I assume is what you were suggesting) probably wouldn't be an issue (or minimal) at the depth they talked about in the article (30 feet of water).
  • Yup, most likely there won't be much especially at that depth. But you just never know... lol.
  • Tectonics takes place almost at imperceptible rate & volcanics are limited to certain geologically active areas. MS definitely will avoid these regions when building futuristic data centers.
  • @TheVolcanologist, true and that's why I said they most likely "have that covered" :).
  • What is this?! Reddit? Get outta here with that appropriate username lol
  • Ahahaha
  • More importantly what if you have to replace a hard drive? O_o
  • I need one for my bathtub!
  • Wouldn't this heat up the oceans and cause thermal pollution? Or is it negligible? Oh well, I guess thats what experiments are for.
  • Read up on it, they've just tested for things of that nature.
  • I wondered that myself.  Although with as cold and deep as the ocean is I would think it wouldn't be as big of a problem as warm/heated water entering a stream and disrupting wildlife.
  • Right, if ever it does become a problem, I guess the fish and crabs can just swim somewhere else.
  • Given the high heat capacity of water it would take a huge number of these to even twitch the needle on a global scale.
  • It's uses far less energy than having to pump water up to a data center or using AC to cool them.
  • OOT. Hi why my mobile hotspot is turned off when the screen goes off? I have to keep my finger ob the screen. Im using L520 running wm10
  • You need to check your TCP/IP, delete all cookies then format the drive.
  • @nath520, use the forums. That's what they there for :).
  • Forum is not-so-good when im using 520 bro. But Thanks for that :)
  • So how has this worked out for you by comparison?
  • Oh hellz yeah! Now where did I put my scuba-gear?
  • Yeah, I wonder how they would prevent theft of the devices unless they put them in a lot deeper water than 30 feet like in the article.
  • Easy, just put them in piranha infested waters! :P. Wait, that would make maintenance more than just tricky lol. Scratch that...
  • Well they are already going into shark infested waters....   I know guard DOLPHINS!  WITH LASERS ON THEIR HEADS!
  • @stoneysilence, lol. I'd prefer telepathic wales; much more low key nevertheless less who doesn't like dolphins with lasers? Lol.
  • So if I download data I need a water filter installed on my PC? Or is this project meant to host phishing sites only?
  • @NokiaUA, make sure your water filter is connected to a aquifer and oh, you might need a aquapura sub for said sites :P.
  • So that Asus with the water cooler was on to something...
  • Reverse Osmosis RAM required!
  • In the building where I work they have two companies that have a huge data centers. Guys from one of the company leave at 4-5pm but once in a while there will be someone coming at late night to restart [something] because they cant do it from their house. Soo, the first thing I thought of after reading first sentence of was "what if they need to do something similar? How are they going to get to the center?" :)
  • MS's automation and remote capabilities are better. That said, if some piece of hardware fails they probably just turn it off instead of replace it.
  • So that Russian submarines can locate it and generate political tensions. Just saying.
  • Well if russian subs het that close to the us shore problems will arise anyway.
  • They already keep breaching our airspace, what makes you think subs aren't already doing just that too?
  • Because the airspace violation and incident of threatening underwater cables are a different case. It was in the Atlantic. The data centres of MSFT would be very close to the US coast and within its maritime borders. I don't think Russian subs will ever violate US's maritime borders as conveniently as they can venture into the unclaimed oceans and the sky.
  • I was a submariner in the World's Greatest Navy (United States), and I have been in Russian waters during the Cold War. I would be surprised if there wasn't a Russian sub off of each of our coasts, and possibly within our territorial waters. Putin's pushing of our buttons isn't limited to air, guaranteed. You just won't hear about the sub activity.
  • Were you driving the sub or was there a holiday ship type of display telling the current location? ;)
  • LOL I was "driving" the boat from the back - I operated the nuclear power plant. As for location, when underway there was a chart on one of the bulkheads where the people in the front of the boat would update it every so often (hourly? - I don't remember - it was 25+ years ago). We could also go up into control, and look at the chart that was up to the minute. Of course, there was the rivalry... The torpedomen would claim that we were just there to drive around their weapons. I tend to argue that their weapons are only there to protect my nuclear power plant. And of course there were other rivalries like this one... ;)
  • Interesting. I had the impression that the location/route is strictly compartmentalized info due to whole point of submarines.
  • It didn't matter who on the boat knew where we were. Who would we tell? ;) To be honest, most of the time we didn't care where we were. The nuclear-powered sewer pipe looks the same whether you're in the Arctic or the Caribbean. I didn't like it in the arctic - the sea water was too cold for my A/C units to work properly. It is kind of weird to see a 27 degree sea water inlet temperature - it doesn't "sound" like ice cubes are running through the pumps.... I didn't like it in the Caribbean - the sea water was too warm for my A/C units to work properly. Put me in the middle of the Atlantic where stuff works right!
  • It's not like US would ever do anything like that...
  • No, never...... ;) This was my boat, 18 years before I got to her:
    March 14, 1970: USS Sturgeon
    As a Soviet sub passé over Sturgeon (SSN-637) in the Barents Sea the men on board could hear crunching. The Soviet boat had scraped Sturgeon from above and to the left, pulling off metal plated above the conning tower.
    http://www.everything2.com/title/Submarine+Collisions
  • When did they breach US airspace?
  • Because these are in 30 feet of water
  • The fishes would be pissed.
  • They might get employment opportunities too.
  • The kit would become a new reef as far as plants and creatures under water are concerned. Within a year it would be completely overgrown with seaweed and local fishermen would discover that it attracts fish that never stayed there before. As long as they can keep trawlers that drag nets though the water away from the area it may be safe. They should check with Norwegian oil industry since they put installations on the sea floor all the time, and they have to deal with everything conceivable, like weather, fishing activity, other oil exploitation, submarines, and sinking debris like discarded equipment and the idd sinking ship.
  • Paul Allen's super yacht will destroy it like that priceless coral reef in Bahamas.
  • But won't that entice Ethan Hunt to steal the data?
  • That's cool!
  • It will be located next to W10M team quarters.
  • Yeah, that's unmanned also...
  • Sounds like a GREAT way to keep cloud DATA out of NATIONAL government interests.... That is one way to keep their customers data secure!
    As far out as 12 nautical miles could be enough....
  • What, so hackers can add another title to their belt (pirate)? Great.....
  • This was my very first thought. Out of reach of court orders and subpoenas.
  • Exactly fulfilling their promise to store data out of reach
  • Leona Philpot is popular? Was there an ilovebees sequel that I missed?
  • She wasn't popular, the game she was from is...
  • Mission Impossible ? Is that you ?
  • cloud computing......in the sea
  • Maybe that's where over 800 of my onedrive files have vanished to...swimming with the fishes :(
  • Cloudy Waters
  • Northern China cities such as Harbin has been attracting data center because of it's frigid winters and an average annual temperature at 3°C
  • You can keep your cloud. My data is safer in the ocean.
  • Forward thinking, green technology. Most impressive.