Microsoft cans subsea datacentre project

Microsoft cans subsea datacentre project

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Microsoft is not continuing with its underwater datacentre project in the UK.

The Natick project ran from 2018 to 2020 to test a sealed subsea datacentre off the coast of the Shetland Isles.

The servers in Natick Northern Isles showed a failure rate of 1/8th that of the land-based control group, partly from the constant temperature and partly from being sealed in an inert, nitrogen environment in the subsea datacetnre.

The steel pressure vessel, heat exchangers, servers, and all other components will be recycled, and The sea bed is being restored to the same state it was in before the subsea data centre deployed.

“While we don’t currently have data centres in the water, we will continue to use Project Natick as a research platform to explore, test, and validate new concepts around data centre reliability and sustainability, for example with liquid immersion,” said Microsoft.

The company has shifted its R&D towards generative AI and the data centre requirements for handling the resulting large amounts of data. This is likely to include the lessons on thermal management from the sealed data centres from the Natick project. At the time the project was looking to support the expected growth in processing for post-quantum encryption.

“I’m not building subsea datacentres anywhere in the world,” said Noelle Walsh, the head of the company’s Cloud Operations + Innovation (CO+I) division when talking to a data centre publication. “My team worked on it, and it worked. We learned a lot about operations below sea level and vibration and impacts on the server. So we’ll apply those learnings to other cases.”





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