Microsoft Tests Underwater Data Center That Uses Ocean's Cooling Effect

Moving to the ocean floor may help Microsoft save money.

— -- Microsoft is experimenting with a data center under the sea.

The software company gave details today of its rationale for going underwater, explaining the idea, called Project Natick, would cut costs when it comes to keeping the data center cool, as well as be environmentally friendly and more responsive to customers.

Data centers are a large group of networked computer servers that can store, process or send data. Google, Facebook and many other technology companies tend to choose cold weather locations for their data centers, helping to cut what could otherwise be a costly bill to keep the servers cold.

A Microsoft post today said the first data center to be submerged was the Leona Philpot, which was operated less than a mile off the Pacific coast of the United States from August to November.

"Project Natick is focused on a cloud future that can help better serve customers in areas which are near large bodies of water (where nearly 50% of society resides)," the company explained. "The vision of operating containerized datacenters offshore near major population centers anticipates a highly interactive future requiring data resources located close to users. Deepwater deployment offers ready access to cooling, renewable power sources, and a controlled environment."

The data centers are designed to last underwater for five years. Microsoft's plan then calls for them to be recovered and the computers replaced before submerging them again. The company said its still in the research phase but if all goes well, this could be the way of the future.