Is there an underwater data center

The servers work better under the sea.

More than half of the world's population lives somewhere by the sea - or at least no further than 200 kilometers from the coast. Sinking data centers in the ocean near coastal cities therefore makes a lot of sense. Data lines between data centers and users would be shortened, which speeds up data transport. The cool water below sea level also enables very energy-efficient data center designs that do not depend on a cooling water supply. Microsoft's Natick [1] project puts these benefits into practice. The feasibility of underwater data centers that can be operated with renewable offshore energy is being tested. They could be used specifically to enable better local access to cloud-based resources - which in turn will support the Microsoft Azure business.


People and corrosion damage IT

In fact, there are problems with the operation of conventional data centers on land that do not arise underwater. Corrosion from oxygen and moisture is far less likely to occur in a water- and gas-tight environment with tight temperature control. The consequence:

The underwater data center has only one eighth the failure rate of a data center on the mainland, which is clearly better. And the high reliability of the servers means that the few that fail prematurely can simply be switched off.

After the cylinder with the 864 servers appeared, air samples were first collected for analysis at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington. The cylinder had been filled with dry nitrogen for operation. The next step is to investigate how gases released from cables and other devices have changed the operating environment of computers. The research team believes that the nitrogen atmosphere, which is less corrosive than oxygen, but also the lack of people carelessly handling the components are the main reasons that the servers on the ocean floor run more reliably.


Operated with wind and solar energy

One hundred percent of electricity in the Orkney Islands is generated from wind and solar (and other experimental energy technologies). This power supply, which is classified as unreliable by most land-based data centers, has proven itself very well, say the Microsoft researchers. This enables scenarios such as the combination of an underwater data center with an offshore wind farm. Even with weak winds, there will in all likelihood be enough electricity for a data center. If not, a power line could be bundled with the fiber optic cabling. Another advantage of such underwater data centers is that the system could theoretically even be relocated to another location in times of high demand.


A data center that doesn't need cooling water

Project Natick proves that data centers can be operated and kept cool without consuming valuable drinking water resources. Natick 2 does not use any water. In comparison, a conventional land-based data center uses 4.8 liters of water per kilowatt hour, according to Microsoft. That corresponds to a long-term requirement of millions of hectoliters of cooling water. (The calculations for the current energy requirements of all global data centers assume at least 200 billion kilowatt hours. [2]) Conventional data centers are performing more and more and use more and more electricity - and thus more water. In many regions of the world, including those near the coast, the water requirements for next-generation data centers cannot be met. So the fact that Microsoft's underwater data center doesn't need water is hugely important.


Twelve cylinders for an Azure mini-region

Microsoft is already planning to enlarge the existing project in order to enable it to operate the entire range of Azure cloud services. To do this, around twelve cylinders with almost 900 servers each would have to be assembled. These would be mounted on a grid structure [3]. The whole system would then be around 100 meters long. Twelve such cylinders have a computing capacity of around five megawatts. According to Microsoft, this is sufficient to operate a mini-Azure region. As people move from generic cloud computing to cloud and edge computing, they see an increasing need to have smaller data centers close to customers instead of having huge data centers in the middle of nowhere, argues Microsoft.

UMB AG offers extensive cloud services. Our cloud specialists also ensure that the services from the mighty Azure cloud reach you - regardless of where the data center is located. Our services give you more time for your core business. You can expect an efficient team as well as well-established partnerships with manufacturers and distributors. Contact us if you want to know more about the Microsoft Azure cloud offer.