NextGen DC from Microsoft

This project started on the fact that half of the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the coast, and building data centers closer to people’s homes would deliver low latency data to users, which is better for real-time cloud services, video playback and also gaming. 

The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella commented 50 percent of the world’s population lives close to water bodies, we think this is the way we want to think about future data center regions and expansion.” 

The project dates back to 2016 when an experimental deployment took place in the coast of California where a 30 foot pod was submerged for testing. Then more recently, a 40 foot data center pod was released off the coast of Scotland. Apparently the pods were designed to last up to 5 years without any human maintenance, but in this instance will only endure 1 year underwater, while Microsoft observes it for testing.


Between the benefits of the water based data center is their quick manufacturing and deployment time. The build time of the data center pods is reduced in comparison to traditional data centers. “It was very fast to build, the entire supply chain of it, from start to finish, was 90 days,” Nadella said. This goes to show how much time is saved for the company. Deploying a land-based data center takes approximately two years in comparison. Microsoft need to predict their future demand, which further delays its response to the market. This factor doesn’t need to be taken into consideration for the sea-based server pod. 

The Natick underwater data center is formed of 12 racks containing 864 servers, with the ability of adding more depending on the future demand, running Azure cloud services. The cooling system use the surrounding ocean, which transfers heat from the machines.

Another fact is that the pod consumes a quarter of a megawatt that is attached to the Orkney Islands grid, that is generated by 100% renewable energy.

Nadella in the Microsoft Future Decoded conference in London said about the pods, “It’s unique in the sense that it’s underwater, it’s self-contained, [and] it’s sustainable because it takes wind power.”

Microsoft’s CEO described Azure as the “world’s computer”, because it spans 54 different regions across the world. It also generated just half over the $6.2 billion in revenue for Microsoft in the second quarter of this year.

With Nadella’s thinking and latest statement about the future of data centers, the possibility of Microsoft creating a commercial data center solution that involves underwater servers doesn’t seem so far away.