Project Natick, the underwater data center launched by Microsoft in June, has installed two video cameras to monitor environmental conditions near the data center. A live feed is available for viewing here.
The Natick data center nodule was deployed in the North Sea, off the coast of Orkney in Scotland. It is powered by a cable connection to the Orkney power grid, which produces renewable energy from onshore wind and solar power, and offshore tides.
However, in the future, Natick data centers may be powered by an on-site ocean-based green power system, without the need for a grid connection. The design is environmentally-sound as well; not only does the Natick product use renewable energy, it will be constructed of recycled material, which will be recycled at the end of the data center lifespan.
According to Microsoft, the undersea data center houses 864 servers holding 27.6 petabytes of storage, and can operate for up to five years without maintenance.
The Orkney data facility represents Phase 2 of Project Natick, Microsoft’s endeavor to create an undersea data center module that can be deployed quickly. Currently, Microsoft can manufacture and deliver a similar module within 90 days, from order to deployment.
Project Natick aims to offer Microsoft customers an option for an energy-efficient, rapidly-provisioned, lower-cost solution to meet data center facility requirements.
Natick data centers also offer low latency – as Microsoft has noted, over 50% of the world’s population lives near the coast, so offshore data centers would offer customers proximity to their data, reducing latency and improving performance.
When the data center was first deployed, Corporate VP of AI and Research for Microsoft Peter Lee noted that a physical location near a data center facility improves operations for online activities like video streaming and game playing, as well as improving the delivery of AI-driven technologies.
“For true delivery of AI,” he said, “we are really cloud-dependent today. If we can be within one internet hop of everyone, then it not only benefits our products, but also the products our customers serve.”
Phase 2 of Project Natick is expected to run for 12 months, as the team monitors the data center and its local environment with many tools, including undersea cameras.