Microsoft has successfully tested a new prototype data centre on the ocean floor, off the US West Coast.
Named as Project Natick, the idea of a submerged data centre was initially conceived in 2013 by a Microsoft employee Sean James. He had served in the Navy for three years on submarines.
The company’s prototype data centre remained for four months in the Pacific Ocean off the Central California coast near San Luis Obispo.
Christened as Leona Philpot, the structure was installed 30ft underwater and was remotely controlled from the local Microsoft offices.
The large white steel tube was covered with heat exchangers, with its ends sealed by metal plates and large bolts.
The interior of the tube consists of a single data centre computing rack inserted with pressurised nitrogen to control the heat emitted from the computing chips.
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It was fitted with acoustic sensors to assess and restrict noise from the equipment.
Microsoft Research and the NExT organisation corporate vice-president Peter Lee said: "We measured no heating of the marine environment beyond a few inches from the vessel."
The system was incorporated with 100 different sensors to monitor pressure, humidity, motion and other conditions to draw a clear picture of operating in an area which is inaccessible at regular intervals.
Following successful testing, Microsoft expects the next phase of Project Natick, which would include a larger submerged data centre, to be carried out next year possibly near Florida or in Northern Europe, where there are extensive ocean energy projects underway.
The company maintains more than 100 data centres globally with an investment of more than $15bn on the data centres to promote over 200 online services.
Image: Project Natick’s Leona Philpot being submerged into the ocean. Photo: courtesy of Scott Eklund / Red Box Pictures / Microsoft.