Underwater Data Centers: Servers below the surface (2023)

Undersea servers and data centers provide a glimpse into the future of a rapidly evolving industry where underwater assets help support and connect underserved communities around the world.

Major initiatives for undersea data centers and undersea servers are underway around the world, and the most notable of these developments is Microsoft's Project Natick. By placing the "cloud" in the "ocean," services such as computing, storage, and networking can help democratize innovation.

Dgtl Infra provides a detailed overview of subsea data centers and subsea servers and the reasons why these new forms of infrastructure exist. In addition, we review Microsoft's Project Natick, including previous Phase 1 and Phase 2 developments, as well as details on a possible Phase 3 in the future. Finally, Dgtl Infra highlights ongoing underwater data center and underwater server initiatives from lesser-known companies that have different deployment approaches.

Underwater Data Centers

Subsea data centers are underwater facilities equipped with power and cooling infrastructure and house computer servers.

Are there data centers under water?

Since 2015, several data centers have been submerged in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The first underwater data center was deployed byMicrosoftin the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California, through an experiment calledNatick project, where phase 1 is a ship transporting 1 rack containing 24 servers.

After initial proof-of-concept testing by Microsoft, ocean data centers have grown, and Project Natick Phase 2 is a shipping container-sized data center with 12 racks containing 864 servers.

Microsoft's Project Natick Phase 2: Underwater Data Center

Underwater Data Centers: Servers below the surface (1)

In addition, the China-based company has developed prototypes and tested underwater data centers.Beijing Highlander Digital-Technologieand based in Los Angeles, Californiaunderwater cloud. It was also speculated aboutAmazon Web Services (AWS),Google, jFacebook (Metaplattformen)You could do your own investigation of underwater data centers.

Why are data centers under water?

Data centers are placed underwater to gain benefitscooling,latency,time to buy,reliability, jsustainability. Below are more details on the five reasons these ocean data centers are going under the sea:


At the heart of the underwater data center's value proposition is cooling. To this end, the oceans provide a consistently cold environment that dissipates the heat generated by the facilities housing the servers. Also, this cooldown can be used for free and effectively.

Heat removal methods are generally an important consideration in data centers because cooling is a significant component of facility-level operational costs. Therefore, if subsea data centers can reduce cooling costs, they may have an operational cost advantage over land-based data centers.

As an example, Microsoft points out that in its most recent underwater data center, which was submerged 36 meters below sea level, temperatures were about 18 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) cooler than land-based data centers. As measured by energy efficiency metrics, Microsoft's underwater data center achieved aPower Consumption Effectiveness (PUE)of 1.07, while the Company's newly constructed ground data centers produce a PUE of approximately 1.125.

CONTINUE READING: How data centers affect the environment

(Video) Why Microsoft Has Underwater Data Centers


Undersea data centers offer a solution for low-latency connectivity, which means it reduces the time it takes data to travel between origin and destination. Ocean data centers in particular can offer low-latency connectivity to coastal residents, which is important as theyMore than 50% of the world's population lives within 200 kilometers of the coast.

By placing underwater data centers in close proximity to a large portion of the world's population, underserved communities can surf the web, video stream, play games and cloud services faster and more smoothly. As such, underwater data centers could become an important oneEdge-ComputingTool for cloud service providers including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

CONTINUE READING: What is an edge data center? (With examples)

time to buy

Underwater data centers are typically built as standardized, prefabricated modules, allowing for short construction and delivery times. For example, Microsoft's underwater data center initiative targets a deployment timeline of "less than 90 days from factory to operations."

Ultimately, the goal of underwater data centers is to provision these facilities faster than land-based data centers. On the ground, data center"construction” requires permissions and adaptation to different physical environments. While underwater data centers are more than a "manufacturing’, whose goal is to produce large-scale modules for use in very similar oceanic conditions.

CONTINUE READING: How much does it cost to build a data center?


Subsea data centers have high levels of reliability and more predictable data center performance because these pre-engineered modules are built to precise specifications in a controlled factory environment. Therefore, these ocean data centers can operate for up to 5 years with no on-site staff and no maintenance.

CONTINUE READING: Data center levels: measure availability

As Microsoft's underwater data center project pointed out, after each 5-year deployment cycle, the data center ship was rebuilt, reloaded with new servers, and then redeployed. In general, this process could be repeated for a total of 4 deployments over a 20 year lifetime. The underwater data center would then be dismantled and recycled.

He alsoServerwithin an underwater data center have a longer lifespan, an indicator of reliability:which will be discussed in more detail in the next section..


Subsea data centers enable operators to meet their sustainability requirements as these facilities can be co-located with offshore renewable energy sources that produce no greenhouse gas emissions. Examples of renewable energy sources for subsea data centers include offshore wind, solar, tidal and wave power. Because these ocean data centers are off-grid, they can reduce the load on local power grids.

Also, underwater data centersdoes not use water for coolingor other operational purposes. Therefore, these plants do not put pressure on freshwater resources, which are essential for people and the environment.

CONTINUE READING: Data center water consumption: billions of gallons per year

As measured by water sustainability metrics, subsea data centers operate at a “perfect”Water Use Effectiveness (WUE)from exactly zero. For comparison: ground-based data centers consume up to 4.8 liters of water per kilowatt hour (kWh).

(Video) Microsoft reveals findings from Project Natick, its experimental undersea datacenter

Underwater Server

Underwater servers are submerged computing devices with data storage and processing components designed to host and run applications, websites, and content, ultimately connected to a network.

Are there underwater servers?

In all, thousands of servers housed in underwater data centers were submerged in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Microsoft's Project Natick Phase 2: Underwater Server

Underwater Data Centers: Servers below the surface (2)

Why are the servers under water?

Servers are placed underwater in sealed containers on the seabed as this allows for longer server lifespans, a proxy forreliability. Submarine server reliability is determined by four main factors:

  1. The atmosphere:Data center underwater containers provide an atmosphere ofdry nitrogen, meaning that there is no oxygen -This is important because nitrogen is less corrosive than oxygen. A benign, oxygen-free environment, in turn, allows for much longer server lifespans.
  2. Humidity:Low humidity in an underwater environment helps reduce the risk of corrosion from excessive condensation and prolongs server life
  3. Temperature fluctuations:Constant sea temperatures reduce the risk of significant rises or falls in ambient temperatures as a result of HVAC/cooling system problems or failures. Wide temperature swings can cause servers and network equipment to expand and contract, contributing to equipment failures.
  4. Absence of people:Underwater data centers operate without on-site staff, unlike land-based data centers that employ facility management staff and technical engineers. With no on-site staff, underwater data centers eliminate the need for humans to nudge and push plant servers to replace failed components.

As a point of reference, Microsoft claims the servers in its latest underwater data center are eight times more reliable than those on land. Put another way, Microsoft's underwater servers showed a failure rate of 1/8th what the company experiences with land-based server deployments.

Microsoft Undersea Data Center: Projekt Natick

Microsoft's research experiment to build an underwater data center and place servers in the ocean is calledNatick project. Till date,Microsoft Project Natickhas successfully completedPhase 1jLevel 2Tests while an upcomingPhase 3it was speculated.

Natick projectPhase 1Level 2Phase 3
thrown outAugust 2015June 2018Future
Length of time105 Take2 years5 years
Long10 cakes (3m)40 cakes (12.2 m)<300 pies (<91.5m)
depthShallow117 cakes (36 m)>131 cakes (>40 m)

Below are more details on each phase of the Microsoft Project Natick:

Phase 1: Microsoft Project Natick

Microsoft Project NatickPhase 1was a prototype proof-of-concept underwater data center launched in August 2015. The Natick Phase 1 project was placed on the seabed in calm, shallow water approximately 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) off the Pacific coast of Avila Beach, which is nearbySt. Louis, California, USA. This 10-foot (3-meter) by 7-foot (2.1-meter), 38,000-pound marine data center operated for a period of 105 days through November 2015.

Phase 1 of Microsoft's Natick project included an underwater data center populated with a standard 42U rack of 24 servers. The servers took up about 1/3 of the rack space, the other 2/3 were filled with "load trays" for heat generation.to test the underwater data center cooling system effectively.

Why did Microsoft flood a data center?

Microsoft placed a data center underwater to demonstrate its ability to deploy, operate (without on-site personnel) and cool an underwater facility for an extended period of time.

Phase 2: Microsoft Project Natick

Microsoft Project NatickLevel 2was an underwater data center deployed over a two-year period, from June 2018 to July 2020. The Natick Phase 2 project was placed on the seabed of the North Islands and specifically in theEuropean Ocean Energy Center (EMEC)on the Orkney Islands,Scotland, Great Britain.

Microsoft Project Natick Phase 2: Lageplan

(Video) Why does Microsoft have underwater data centers?

Underwater Data Centers: Servers below the surface (3)

This shipping container-sized underwater data center was manufactured by Naval Group, a French naval defense company, with the following components and dimensions:

  • Pressure vessel:Steel cylinders measuring 40 feet (12.2 meters) long, 9.2 feet (2.8 meters) in diameter, or 10.4 feet (3.2 meters), including external components. This means that the pressure vessel has roughly the same dimensions as an ISO container. This design was deliberate to ensure the underwater data center could be transported using existing logistics chains.
  • Submarine docking structure:triangular ballasted base measuring 47 feet (14.3 meters) long and 41.7 feet (12.7 meters) wide. This underwater docking structure was on the seabed and attached to the pressure vessel.

Microsoft's Project Natick Phase 2: Underwater Data Center

Underwater Data Centers: Servers below the surface (4)

Microsoft's Project Natick Phase 2 was deployed 117 feet (36 meters) deep into the slab rock seafloor. The facility consisted of an underwater data center with 12 racks containing 864 standard FPGA-accelerated servers. Each of the 864 servers had 32 terabytes of hard drives, for a total hard drive of 27.6 petabytes.

In terms of electrical power consumption, Phase 2 of Microsoft's Natick project required 240 kilowatts (kW), which equates to just under a quarter megawatt of power at full capacity. This power was sourced from locally produced, 100% renewable electricity, including onshore wind and solar, as well as offshore wave and tidal power.

Underwater Data Centers: Servers below the surface (5)

In terms of cooling, Microsoft's Project Natick Phase 2 uses an air-to-liquid heat exchange process. This system directs seawater through radiators at the back of each of the 12 server racks in the underwater data center and back into the ocean.

Finally, the internal operating environment of Phase 2 of the Natick project was 100% dry nitrogen at 1 atmosphere pressure.

Why are Microsoft data centers under water?

Phase 2 of Microsoft's Natick project aimed to determine whether it was economically feasible to manufacture large subsea data center modules and deploy them in less than 90 days.

In addition, Microsoft was able to test and monitor the over a period of two yearsPerformancejreliabilitythe server in the underwater data center. For example, Microsoft monitored metrics such as power consumption, temperature, internal humidity, fan speed, sound, and power speed.

Phase 3: Microsoft Project Natick

Microsoft's future Project NatickPhase 3He was described as a "pilot". Specifically, Microsoft would build a "larger" underwater data center for Project Natick Phase 3 that "could be multi-vessel" and "could be a different deployment technology" than Phase 2.

Any commercial implementation would place Microsoft's Project Natick Phase 3 at a depth of more than 36 meters (117 feet) -At what depth was phase 2 deployed?.

(Video) Why Microsoft left dozens of servers on the ocean floor for two years

Previous speculation was that for Phase 3, a long steel frame less than 300 feet (91.5 meters) span could contain 12 underwater data center cylinders, similar in size to the cylinders used in Phase 2.

Illustrative representation of Microsoft's Project Natick Phase 3

Underwater Data Centers: Servers below the surface (6)

providedeveryThe cylinder of the underwater data center was loaded with 12 racks, then the phase 3 steel frame could support a total of 144 racks. Assuming the phase 2 ratio is 72 servers per rack, this means Project Natick phase 3 could support a total of 10,368 servers.

More companies with underwater data centers

Underwater data centers and servers have been tested by China-based companiesBeijing Highlander Digital-Technologieand based in the US.underwater cloud. While there has also been speculation that Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google and Facebook (Metaplatforms) may conduct their own investigations into underwater data centers and servers.

Beijing Highlander Digital-Technologie

In early 2021, Beijing Highlander Digital Technology launched the prototype four-rack underwater data center in the city of Zhuhai, located in south China's Guangdong province.

Later, in mid-2021, Beijing Highlander Digital Technology announced plans to build 100 subsea data center modules by 2025 at a cost of RMB5.6 billion (US$880 million). These underwater data center modules are deployed in the city of Sanya, which is located in the southern part of Hainan Island in China.

Beijing Highlander Digital Technology: Underwater data centers in Sanya

Underwater Data Centers: Servers below the surface (7)

For the latest Beijing Highlander project, the company has partnered with Offshore Oil Engineering Co (COOEC), an engineering company, and Beijing Sinnet Technology Co, a carrier-independent data center operator in ChinaAmazon Web Services (AWS)Cloud products and services in the Beijing region of China.

CONTINUE READING: Top 10 cloud service providers worldwide in 2023

underwater cloud

Subsea Cloud is a Los Angeles, California-based startup company focused on providing undersea data centers and servers. Subsea Cloud is currently planning to launch the following three subsea data centers:

  1. Julio Verne:Deployed an underwater data center near Port Angeles, Washington with the size and dimensions similar to a 20-foot (6-meter) shipping container. This underwater data center will be populated with 16 racks containing approximately 800 servers and will be located in shallow water at a depth of 30 feet (9.1 meters).
  2. Njord01:Establishment of an underwater data center in the Gulf of Mexico to be built at a depth of 700 to 900 feet (213 to 274 meters).
  3. say:Establishment of an underwater data center in the North Sea (Europe) to be placed at a depth of 600 to 700 feet (183 to 213 meters).

Subsea Cloud initially anticipates that Jules Verne's underwater data center will be commercially available before the end of 2022.

Underwater Data Centers: Servers below the surface (8)
(Video) How Microsoft's Underwater Data Center Is Working


Which data center is underwater? ›

The first underwater data center was deployed by Microsoft into the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California, through an experiment called Project Natick, with Phase 1 being a vessel carrying 1 rack, containing 24 servers.

Why does Microsoft have underwater data centers? ›

The objective was to preserve energy while providing coastal communities with lightning-fast cloud services. Microsoft tested its solutions by submerging data centers close to coastal cities in order to accomplish this goal.

Can underwater data Centres slash co2 emissions and make the Internet faster? ›

Faster connection

As well as reducing costs and their environmental footprint, underwater data centres could also provide a faster internet connection. Subsea claims that latency - or data lag - can be reduced by up to 98 per cent with its underwater pods.

Why servers are under water? ›

On land, data centers run into issues like corrosion from oxygen and humidity and controlling shifts in temperatures. But in a water-tight environment with tight temperature control, far fewer issues crop up.

Are there servers under the sea? ›

An underwater data centre could start operating off the west coast of the US before the end of 2022. The project is an attempt to show the viability of using the ocean to provide cooling, which normally accounts for a large portion of data centre energy use.

How is underwater data collected? ›

Underwater wireless sensor networks (UWSNs) is emerging as an advance terminology for monitoring and controlling the underwater aquatic life. This technology determines the undiscovered resources present in the water through computational intelligence (CI) techniques.

Why are data centers built near water? ›

Data Center Water Use

The energy that data centers use is incorporated into the process of cooling water, which will then be evaporated to remove heat from the servers or sprayed into the air around the servers. Because of the need to cool down data center equipment, these facilities use copious amounts of water.

Why do data centers need so much water? ›

Data centers use large amounts of water for their cooling system, which includes cooling towers, chillers, pumps, piping, heat exchangers / condensers, and computer room air conditioner (CRAC) units. Additionally, data centers need water for their humidification systems and facility maintenance.

Why did Microsoft leave dozens of servers on the ocean floor for two years? ›

The datacenter was filled with dry nitrogen and spent two years on the seafloor off the Orkney Islands as part of a years-long effort to prove the underwater datacenter concept is feasible as well as logistically, environmentally and economically practical.

Does CO2 decrease with ocean depth? ›

At typical pressures and temperatures that exist in the ocean, pure CO2 would be a gas above approximately 500 m and a liquid below that depth. Between about 500 and 2700 m depth, liquid CO2 is lighter than sea water. Deeper than 3000 m, CO2 is denser than sea water.

Does CO2 increase underwater? ›

Ocean acidification is sometimes called “climate change's equally evil twin,” and for good reason: it's a significant and harmful consequence of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that we don't see or feel because its effects are happening underwater.

What are 4 ways you can cut down on your CO2 emissions? ›

Here are 10 easy ways you can start making a difference:
  • Stop buying your water in plastic. ...
  • Incorporate walking or biking to some of your regular short-trip destinations. ...
  • Turn off lights and unplug devices when you're not using them. ...
  • Keep the tires on your car properly inflated and get regular tune-ups.

How do I protect my water server? ›

Get a sheet of rigid 1" insulating foam or something and make a cut-to-fit lid for your rack with at least enough overhang so that drips off of it don't splash on your equipment.

Who has the largest data center in the world? ›

Google, Iowa: Google data center executive Joe Kava has described the company's Council Bluffs, Iowa campus as the world's largest data center campus. With the completion of its latest phase in February, Google has now invested $5 billion in its Iowa campus.

What city is partially underwater? ›

Shicheng, China

Beneath the waters of Lake Qiandao in China, there are ruins of cities and towns that used to be part of two regions called Chun'an and Sui'an. The towns were submerged in 1957, when the government at that time decided to build a hydroelectric power station in the area, according to National Geographic.

What are the four main types of data centers? ›

Data center needs vary depending on their structure, physical limitations, density requirements and more. Here are four common data center types including onsite, colocation facilities, hyperscale, and edge data centers, as well as their use cases and industry trends.


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