Microsoft’s Server experiment Comes out of Water after Two Years

Back in 2018, Microsoft sunk a whole data center to the bottom of the Scottish sea, drowning 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of storage 117 feet deep in the ocean. Today, the company has claimed that its latest experiment was a success, disclosing findings that exhibit that the idea of an underwater data center is a pretty smart one.

Years of Experiments

Microsoft placed a data center in the Scottish sea to find out whether it can conserve energy by cooling it in the sea. Data centers typically generate a massive amount of heat, and big providers try to move them to countries having low temperatures to save on energy bills. Microsoft has been experimenting with subsea data centers for around seven years and previously submerged a data center on the Californian coast for five months back in 2015.

The data center that has been extracted today consists of 12 racks with 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of storage. That’s enough storage for about 5 million movies, and the data center is as powerful as thousands of high-end desktop PCs. The data center was being powered by an undersea cable and renewable energy from the Orkney Islands. The cable also connected the servers back to the internet.

In reality, drowning an entire data center to the bottom of the ocean might look strange; however, Microsoft’s Project Natick team excogitated that placing would lead to more reliable and energy-efficient data centers.

How is Underwater Data Center Better?

On land, data centers experience many issues such as corrosion from oxygen and humidity and controlling shifts in temperatures. However, in a water-tight environment with rigid temperature control, far fewer issues are seen. The idea is that these types of servers can be deployed easily without any hassle. They can be in sizes big and small near the coasts of areas that need them, providing better local access to cloud-based resources in more places.

The advantages are massive. Microsoft claims the underwater data center had just one-eighth the failure rate as compared to its land-based counterpart, which is a dramatic improvement. That lower failure rate is crucial, given that it’s much difficult to service a faulty server when it’s in an airtight container at the bottom of the ocean.

The company’s been looking for the idea of submerged servers for some time already. As mentioned above back in 2015, it dipped a data center off the coast of California for many months as a proof of concept to see if the computers would even survive the trip. This round of trials was for a far longer amount of time, though, with the focus of proving that the company could accomplish this task on a practical scale that could be manufactured and produced for real-world utilization. The upcoming target will be displaying that the servers can be easily removed and recycled once they reach the end of their life.