Microsoft is looking to bring data centres much closer to the people who use them. One of the more interesting possibilities it is currently exploring is the use of a self-sustaining undersea data centre, which could simply be dropped on the ocean floor near a population centre.
The company has already experimented with one such data centre back in 2016 with a 30-foot Natick pod situated near the coast of California to test the feasibility of the project. Now, the company is looking to do the same off the coast of the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, an archipelago northeast of Scotland.
This time around, the company wants to not only test the feasibility of a similar project in European waters with a slightly larger 40-foot pod but is also looking to bring down the deployment times for the data centre from two years to just 90 days.
The pods are designed to be self-sustaining and, the company hopes, will require no maintenance for a five-year period. By this time, the servers within one of these data centres would normally be retired anyway. The quarter of a megawatt required by the data centre is provided by 100% renewable energy via the Orkney electrical grid and the cooling system ingeniously relies on the copious amounts of water surrounding the pod to keep temperatures in check.
Overall, Microsoft's aims with Project Natick are not only to bring lower-latency cloud computing to a larger number of people - the company points out that almost 50% of the world's population lives near coasts - but also to create a more environmentally friendly data centre.