In Spring of 2018, Microsoft's Project Natick team deployed the Northern Isles datacenter 117 feet deep to the seafloor off the coast of Scotland's Orkney Islands. Earlier this summer, marine specialists reeled up the shipping-container sized datacenter from the seafloor in order to study it and confirm their hypotheses regarding the viability of underwater datacenters.
The team hypothesized that a sealed container on the ocean floor could provide ways to improve the overall reliability of datacenters. Corrosion from oxygen and humidity, as well as temperature changes, bumps and jostles from repair persons, etc., all contribute to equipment failure on land.
The project also focused on learning about sustainability strategies for energy, waste, and water. The experiment proves that underwater data centers can be reliable - in fact, they fail at one-eighth the rate of traditional datacenters - and has prompted discussions with a Mirosoft team in Azure that is looking to serve customers who need to deploy and operate tactical and critical datacenters anywhere in the world.
There were 864 servers with a collective 27.6 petabytes of storage and cooling infrastructure inside the datacenter. Microsoft also noted that conditions at the European Marine Energy Centre test site can include 9mph tidal currents and 60-foot waves during storms. An obvious issue with the location of the data center is that repairs in place are impossible. What remains currently unknown is whether or not underwater data centers will have any significant impact on the environment.
You can learn more about the study here.