back to article Up from the depths, 864 servers inside, covered in slime, it's Natick!

Microsoft has hauled its data centre in a box, Natick, up from the seabed and concluded that data is indeed better, down where it's wetter, under the sea. The results have been a long time coming. Project Natick kicked off back in 2013 and a prototype of the underwater data centre was dunked in the Pacific, off California, …

  1. E 2


    How would Jeff Bezos protect an orbiting data center from solar flares?

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Orbit

      By orbiting underwater, of course.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Orbit

      More to the point, what kind of latency is he projecting?

    3. Pen-y-gors

      Re: Orbit

      And isn't it a bit tricky to lose the heat?

      And will need an awful lot of solar panels to power a few thousand servers. Or does he plan to beam power up from the ground?

    4. KBeee

      Re: Orbit

      He'll only let them orbit at night

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: Orbit

        Not necessarily a joke.You can hide satellites behind the planet if solar flares are predictable. They do this around Mars.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That puts a whole new spin ..

    .. on phishing ..


    1. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

      Re: That puts a whole new spin ..

      Technology deep dive.

      1. Oh Matron!

        Re: That puts a whole new spin ..

        You've sunk to new depths with that comments

  3. Knoydart

    Computing containers under the sea

    Well that's a whole new take on (shipping) containers and the cloud.

  4. Duncan Macdonald

    Getting ready for Skynet

    If the servers are in places that humans cannot easily reach then Skynet has a better chance of outlasting pesky humans.

  5. Woza

    Blue Hades

    Are wondering where their game of solitaire went!

  6. Martin an gof Silver badge

    What went wrong?

    Both this article and the one on the BBC are full of what went right, but in the articles when the datacentre was first sunk, it was said to be planned to leave it there for five years.

    It has only been two, so why dredge it up now?


    1. MatthewSt

      Re: What went wrong?

      The BBC article says "up to five years", so I would imagine that they've gathered enough information from it being down there, and they want to improve the design for another test, or start doing it commercially.

      "Recent events" mean that demand for servers is higher, so they may be expediting the process to get more capacity up closer to the users sooner

    2. 9Rune5

      Re: What went wrong?

      The original BBC article ( stated:

      Now, the Project Natick team will monitor the data centre for the next five years.

      So yes, it would be interesting to know the official answer.

  7. mmccul

    I guess this means we now have ...

    reef computing?

  8. low_resolution_foxxes

    No comment on the occasional pesky fishing trawler with anchors and difficulty to perform maintenance though?

    Out of interest, what temperature is the water? Not a terrible concept for cooling.

    1. low_resolution_foxxes

      Was intrigued and checked, 8-12C normally.

    2. rg287 Silver badge

      No comment on the occasional pesky fishing trawler with anchors and difficulty to perform maintenance though?

      The reason it was located there was that the area is controlled by the European Marine Energy Centre, a test site for tidal turbines and wave energy converters. No trawling because there's lots of "stuff" on the sea floor - cables, turbines, test rigs. It's also got some quite strong currents and decent winter storms, so was a good test of the pod getting "jostled" externally.

      Aside from the practical considerations (no-trawl zone and their project partners have heavy-lift equipment available - see maintenance), this was partly for green credentials and also to show that they could run off a power supply traditionally viewed as unreliable. The suggestion is that these pods could be quite reasonably powered by an offshore wind farm (again, no-fish and good work-vessel availability) with a last-resort shore-power connection laid alongside the fibre-uplink. This would provide no-maintenance, self-contained edge-computing in remote areas. Just roll up once every x years and replace the pod wholesale.

  9. big_D Silver badge


    I'm sure BOfH recommends halon for a meatbag free server room.

  10. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    Windows is also covered in slime.

  11. Pen-y-gors


    Cue Bond villains with their mini-submarines, hacking in to the servers...

    1. Flywheel

      Re: Thunderball

      I'm sure it won't be long before an (alleged) Russian phishing trawler just happens to float by and accidentally nets the data centre...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now we know what to do with unwanted nuclear submarines

    And I don't want any of them

  13. Lotaresco

    ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

    Cyclopean slime covered capsules from the sea pulsing with eldritch energies. He is risen!

    Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!

  14. laughthisoff

    Hmmm... so is there a potential market for cooling gaming PCs by submerging them in the garden pond via a suitable 'underwater case' type product?!? :-)

    1. jake Silver badge

      No, but I'll bet a nickle that you could probably sucker some hard-core gamers out of some pretty decent coin if you could come up with a small GSHP rig for PCs ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Hmmm... so is there a potential market for cooling gaming PCs by submerging them in the garden pond

      No need for garden ponds - just flood their parents' basements.

  15. PerlyKing


    So when people talk about "boiling the oceans" to solve a problem, is this what they mean?

  16. capnkirk

    What next?

    Maybe they could strike up a deal with local swimming pools as a new way to heat the water?

  17. Cuddles


    "Over the last two years, researchers have seen a failure rate of an eighth of that seen in a control group of servers on land, running the same workloads."

    Having a lower failure rate is obviously beneficial, but it seems to come at the cost of being extremely difficult to fix or replace the parts that do fail. Would this mean moving to an SSD-style of overprovisioning, where you start off with 10%ish more servers than actually needed and bring the spares online as the used ones fail, until the capacity finally drops enough that you need to replace the whole thing?

    1. Cynic_999

      Re: Maintenance

      That would seem to be a reasonable way of doing things. Now that the rate of significant hardware improvements has slowed, this idea has merit.

  18. error 13

    great for cooling I guess

    Shame Microsoft didn't have the spare capacity in the Azure UK south yesterday when they had a massive outage due to cooling failure...

  19. Ashto5 Bronze badge

    Warm Oceans

    Well warm oceans won’t cause any problems

    Great result morons

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Warm Oceans

      " Microsoft told The Register that the water returned to the ocean was "a fraction of a degree warmer than ambient"."

      1. hoola Silver badge

        Re: Warm Oceans

        That was one small container. Once you start putting huge quantities in and there will clearly be a limitation on where you can put them, this may not be the case.

        We have enough problems with the oceans warming without making it worse. Just like car pollution, each individual vehicle is not much, the trouble comes with numbers (CO2) and density (NO, Particulates)

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Warm Oceans

          hoola, there are over 321,000,000 cubic miles of water in the Earth's oceans (according to NOAA). By some estimates, "The Internet" (whatever that is) consumes about 200 Gigawatts of electricity per year. That's all the phones, tablets, desktops and servers world-wide, along with the networking and routing and switching that allows you to view all the pr0n CuteCatPics[tm] your little heart desires.

          Do you have the math skills to estimate how long it would take to raise ocean water temperature by even 0.001% of a degree (C or F, I'm not going to quibble), if all that power was dissipated into the oceans, with no losses whatsoever?

  20. TechHeadToo

    You know, if they can get all the applications running, and maybe shrink it a bit - say to somehting more of a shoe box size - then we could each have one.

    We could call it - a Personal Container - or PC for short

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon