PERISCOPE partner EMEC helps Microsoft to discover that underwater datacenters are reliable, practical and use energy sustainably

18 September 2020 - Published by Stig Marthinsen

PERISCOPE partner, European Marine Energy Centre, helped computing giant Microsoft sink a data centre in the sea off Orkney to investigate whether it could boost energy efficiency.

Microsoft describes the project as out-of-the-box idea to meet rapidly growing demand for cloud computing infrastructure near population centres, whilst being less resource intensive and offering rapid provisioning, lower costs, and high agility. After two years on the seabed, earlier this summer, marine specialists reeled up a shipping-container-size datacenter coated in algae, barnacles and sea anemones from the seafloor. The retrieval launched the final phase of a years-long effort that proved the concept of underwater datacenters is feasible, as well as logistically, environmentally and economically practical.

The team hypothesized that a sealed container on the ocean floor could provide ways to improve the overall reliability of datacenters. On land, corrosion from oxygen and humidity, temperature fluctuations and bumps and jostles from people who replace broken components are all variables that can contribute to equipment failure.

The Northern Isles deployment confirmed their hypothesis, which could have implications for datacenters on land.

Image © EMEC