Microsoft Data Center Resurfaces After Two Years Underwater

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Two years after tech giant Microsoft’s Project Natick team conducted a wild experiment and submerging a data center off the coast of Orkney, Scotland in 2018, the team behind the experiment has retrieved the cylinder in attempts to gauge its performance.

The team reportedly hypothesized that placing data centers at the bottom of the ocean would provide a more reliable and energy-efficient outcome as opposed to housing these servers on land, notes The Verge.

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On land, these cylinders are supposedly more prone to come across a host of issues such as corrosion, changes in humidity, temperature fluctuations, and human interference.

Microsoft Data Center Resurfaces

According to Tech Crunch, the shipping container-sized server placed underwater has been retrieved at the beginning of summer 2020, with the team behind Project Natick spending months on studying the effects and overall performance of the said data center.

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After two years under the ocean floor, Tech Radar states the researchers from the Project Natick team found that only eight out of the 855 servers failed to work properly after being submerged for two years.

Head researcher Ben Cutler shares this phenomenon can be attributed to the lack of human interactions and interference.

Moreover, this can be because the servers are preserved with nitrogen gas instead of oxygen, the former of which bears less corrosive properties than the latter notes Tech Radar.

Following its months-long study, the research team behind Microsoft’s Project Natick took to sharing their findings via a blog post on its website.

In a statement, technical staff principal member for the Special Projects research group at Microsoft said, “We have been able to run really well on what most land-based datacenters consider an unreliable grid. We are hopeful that we can look at our findings and say maybe we don’t need to have quite as much infrastructure focused on power and reliability.”

The study shows that these servers can easily be placed in coastal areas and can extend cloud-based services while also serving energy. This would also provide a more accessible and affordable alternative to land-based servers which require more upkeep.

Based on its blog post, the research team believes that “By putting datacenters underwater near coastal cities, data would have a short distance to travel, leading to fast and smooth web surfing, video streaming and game playing.”

After its initial findings and research, Tech Crunch states the Project Natick team is looking to scale up the size and performance of these servers by combining or linking around a dozen or more cylinders roughly the size of the Northern Isles.

The scaling up of these data centers aims to provide power to Microsoft Azure cloud services.

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