Microsoft is making waves in the data centre industry

The company deployed their Northern Isle data centre 117 feet deep to the seafloor in spring 2018. Located off the Orkney Islands, the project has now reached the end of the stage two experiment, providing exceptional insights into data and energy efficiency.

Interesting facts about the project

The cylinder itself measures 12.2 metres in length and has a 2.8-metre diameter, housing 864 servers with a combined output of 27.6 million gigabytes. Upon retrieval and after a quick rinse the surprisingly clean data centre was analysed by the specialist team at Microsoft. The retrieved data showed that these sea dwellers were 8 times more reliable than their land-based counterparts, although why remains yet unknown. Despite a handful of failed servers that were taken offline no maintenance was carried out for a two-year testing period. Part of the success may be down to the dry nitrogen filling the chamber which is less corrosive than the oxygen filling the data centres on land. They are also designed to survive up to half a decade at the bottom of the ocean before needing a health check.

How do underwater data centres compare to other data centres?

8 million data centres around the world are processing our data every second, with our cloud-based services being at an all-time high due to the pandemic, making the search for sustainable solutions more crucial than ever. Normal data centres face constant battering from numerous elements, from oxygen and humidity in the air causing corrosion to climate dependant temperature fluctuations making cooling equipment necessary, which in turn can be costly. The constant footfall of staff also raises concerns about potential damages being caused to the equipment. And while most data centres are kept safe by trained security, the possibility of break-ins at the bottom of the sea remains very unlikely. By sinking the facility in an airtight, waterproof container these concerns can be alleviated.

Energy usage

Over 50% of the world’s population live within 120 miles of the coast so having data centres in the ocean, rather than in the middle of nowhere, would mean less distance for data to travel, ensuring less energy consumption. This also benefits the speed at which your data travels, allowing lightning-fast access.

With the shift into cloud-based services having multiple smaller data centres amongst the population would make more sense in terms of energy and providing stable access for customers rather than drawing from one external warehouse. The need for land-based locations will always be there, however, these will most like become less common. Due to the uninterrupted winds at sea, Microsoft envisions its submerged vessels being powered by offshore wind farms, making the two a perfect pairing and offering a greener solution for energy usage.

What if any impact does this data centre solution have on our environment?

Due to the sheer scale of our oceans, these data centres would hypothetically even in the thousands take up less than 1% of the seafloor, ensuring little impact on its precious residents. The oceans cold waters also provide a natural cooling system for the capsules reducing the energy required to cool the data centre. The effect the capsule has on the surrounding water temperatures is negligible as the change measured is only meant to be a fraction of a degree, which is barely noticeable with the most advanced measuring tools. The capsules also provide a habitat for fish and other aquatic sea life as they are drawn to solid structures transforming them into ocean havens. These ocean-dwelling data centres are built to survive half a decade on the seabed ensuring little distribution to its surroundings.

Cross-Guard Cooling Solutions

It is very clear the history of data storage is being rewritten right before our eyes and here at Cross-Guard, we believe it is our responsibility to support these innovative steps towards a greener future. Seeing one of the world’s largest tech giants making these positive steps is not only inspirational but also very promising for our shared climate and future.

We can play our part by aiding you in finding the best solution for your data storage. Should you be interested in optimising the cooling efficiency in your data centre call us for help +44 (0)20 8108 9328 or email


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