ATN: Project Natick plumbs new data centre depths

ATN-300InsightaaS: The IT trade press is abuzz today with reports on Project Natick*, an experimental Azure pod deployed 30 meters below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Microsoft project manager Ben Cutler says, “Project Natick is a radical approach to how we deploy data centres. Basically what we’re doing is, we’re taking green data centres and deploying in the ocean off the coast. The overall goal here is to deploy data centres at scale, anywhere in the world, from decision to power on in 90 days.” Cutler notes that “half the world’s population lives within 200 kilometers of the sea;” research engineer Jeff Kramer adds, “…so moving data centres to the ocean made a great amount of sense, to be able to make the actual cable to our customers as short as possible.”

The DatacenterDynamics article that I read about Project Natick makes it clear that proximity to customers is not the only advantage to ocean-based data centre containers. The DCD piece quotes Microsoft as saying “Underwater data centers can be cooled by the surrounding water, and could also be powered by wave or tidal energy” – meaning that there are economic and environmental benefits associated with this approach as well.

All involved stress that Project Natick is still a research project, far from introduction as a commercial offering. It is intriguing nonetheless, though, and it has already achieved one commercially-relevant objective: on the sites/in the pages of DCD, The New York Times, PC World, VentureBeat and other sources of IT industry insight (including InsightaaS!), Microsoft has displaced Google as the ‘cool kid on the block’, the innovator moving beyond today’s operations into the potential of the future.

From the DCD piece, “Project Natick puts servers in a rack in a can at the bottom of the deep blue sea”


Microsoft Research has deployed a small data center in a watertight container at the bottom of the ocean – and even delivered its Azure cloud form the sea bed.

Underwater data centers can be cooled by the surrounding water, and could also be powered by wave or tidal energy, says the Project Natick group at Microsoft Research, which deployed an experimental underwater data center one kilometer off the Pacific coast of the US between August and November of 2015.

Azure sea

The project aims to show it is possible to quickly deploy “edge” data centers in the sea, close to people who live near the coast: ”Project Natick is focused on a cloud future that can help better serve customers in areas which are near large bodies of water…”

Read the entire DCD piece here:


  • – In its FAQ section,the Microsoft site for the project states that “Natick is a codename and carries no special meaning. It is a town in Massachusetts.” Maybe that’s true for folks from Redmond, but where I’m from, Natick definitely had some special meaning: it was famous for having a US Army research lab, and also for being the home town of Doug Flutie.


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