Project Natick is an initiative launched in August 2014 by Microsoft for testing the feasibility of an energy-efficient, low-latency cloud computing facility on the ocean floor. Microsoft first released details of Project Natick in February 2016, announcing that it had dropped a 38,000-pound, 10-foot by 7-foot container more than half a mile from the Pacific coast in August 2015.
The Project Natick vessel remained underwater for three months, during which a research team from Microsoft recorded data like temperature, humidity, power consumption, and ocean variables such as current speed.
The Impetus for Initiating Project Natick
Microsoft initiated Project Natick to see if placing servers underwater could help solve some of the key challenges associated with managing the explosive demand for cloud services.
Some of these challenges include reducing cooling costs, deploying data centers faster by avoiding potentially time-consuming issues like obtaining permits and other construction issues, and reducing latency by closing the distance to populations half of the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the sea and thereby speeding data transmission.
Project Natick: Phase Two
Microsoft is currently planning the next phase for Project Natick, which could include a vessel four times the size of the initial container and with as much as 20 times the compute power. The project may eventually expand to test the use of hydrokinetic energy from waves or tides for computing power.