In the spring of 2018, Microsoft deployed its Northern Isles datacenter 117 feet deep to the seafloor as a part of Project Natick. Microsoft has been experimenting with undersea data centres for years to understand the benefits and difficulties of deploying subsea data centres worldwide.
With 12 racks, 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of storage, enough to store at least 5 million copies of Finding Nemo, the underwater data centre was installed in the Orkney Islands, Scotland in June 2018. While the feasibility of the underwater data centre was identified by the company in 2015, its deployment in Phase II included contracting with marine specialists in logistics, shipbuilding and renewable energy to show that the concept is also practical.
After two years of testing and monitoring the performance and reliability of the data centre’s servers, it has been taken out to observe the results.
“We are now at the point of trying to harness what we have done as opposed to feeling the need to go and prove out some more,” said Ben Cutler, a project manager in Microsoft’s Special Projects research group who leads Project Natick. “We have done what we need to do. Natick is a key building block for the company to use if it is appropriate.”
Here, we include the journey of the much talked about underwater data centre in pics.