A few years ago Microsoft decided to sink a data centre and see how well it performs. The short answer is: well, the underwater server farm did just fine. This is significant because it proves that underwater data centres are feasible and, to Microsoft’s surprise can be more reliable.
Data centres take a lot of energy to keep cool so by putting it in the water the cooling system uses the chilly waters surrounding it. The carbon footprint of these underwater systems is potentially smaller too since instead of running massive air conditioners (which consume a lot of energy) they are using their local environment.
Their first conclusion is that the cylinder packed with servers had a lower failure rate than a conventional data centre.
When the container was hauled off the seabed around half a mile offshore after being placed there in May 2018, just eight out of the 855 servers on board had failed.
That compares very well with a conventional data centre.
“Our failure rate in the water is one-eighth of what we see on land,” says Ben Cutler, who has led what Microsoft calls Project Natick.