This week marked the launch of Phase 2 in Microsoft’s Project Natick. Project Natick is an underwater data center. This time they have partnered with the European Marine Energy Center to launch of the Orkney Islands in Scotland. The project’s objective is to find solutions to the sustainability of data centers. Phase 1 began in 2015 on the United States Pacific coast. Phase 1 was developed as a lights-out data center meaning the center is completely isolated limiting human access and environmental fluctuations. This eliminates the unnecessary use of energy to light the space and for maintaining climate control of the space. The design in equal to a large shipping container and inside it holds about 864 servers on 12 racks. Natick is the first time a commercial data center has been powered by marine renewable energy.
Many data centers currently rely on energy-intensive cooling systems to keep their space at ideal operating temperatures. According to a government study in the UK, data centers use 70 kW hours of electricity, which equals about 1.8 percent of the country’s total energy consumption. Microsoft is hoping to take their research from this project and develop new ways to limit the energy costs and environmentally-friendly facilities.
As of now, the Natick team will monitor the data center while it’s submerged for five years. Their goals are to use this prototype as a center for developing much larger underwater data centers in the future. To power this prototype using renewable energy, particularly marine. To show that lights out datacenter can last up to the end of the 5-year cycle. And to explore solutions the off less resource intensive options.