back to article Microsoft sinks another data centre with Natick 2

Fish already dodging trawler nets in the North Sea off Orkney found another hazard to contend with this morning: a huge white tube of servers, emblazoned with the Windows logo. Project Natick kicked off back in 2013, when a proposal for an underwater data centre caught the attention of Microsoft's top brass and led to a …

  1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    All your data is belong to Cthulhu.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Or possibly Dagon. The latter has pluses if you have a diverse work force that includes a minority suffering from the recessive genetic anomaly known as the "Innsmouth look".

  2. Anonymous Bullard

    Brings another meaning to "flooding the server"

  3. Spiz

    "The capsule, named "Leona Philpott" for a character from the Halo game franchise, was a mere 10 x 7ft"

    "The new iteration is considerably larger with a pressure vessel 12.2m in length and 2.8m wide."

    Wow. Thanks for that...

    1. Andytug

      The measurement standards are definitely slipping recently...

      It should be in linguine, double decker buses or brontosauruses, or there will be unnecessary confusion!

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: The measurement standards are definitely slipping recently...

        Given the mileu, one might agitate for The British Standard Sperm Whale.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      4-color windows logo visible in photo

      seems like someone "forgot" to use the "modern" 2D FLATSO rhomboid version. thankfully. (or was that the previous one in the photo?)

      yeah, it's got a windows 7 style logo on it

      But apparently it's easier to set one up underwater, than it is on land. I wonder _WHY_ that is??? [I can think of reasons, most of them political]. Natural cooling is a good thing, of course, but I think there's a lot more to it.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: 4-color windows logo visible in photo

        But apparently it's easier to set one up underwater, than it is on land. I wonder _WHY_ that is???

        Perhaps the plan is to move the data centers out beyond the 3-mile limit. Thus, no government can claim jurisdiction.

        1. TheVogon Silver badge

          Re: 4-color windows logo visible in photo

          "Perhaps the plan is to move the data centers out beyond the 3-mile limit. Thus, no government can claim jurisdiction."

          I presume you mean the 12 mile limit.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: 4-color windows logo visible in photo

        "But apparently it's easier to set one up underwater, than it is on land."

        Where did you get this idea? Of course it's easier to set up a data centre on land.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    The capsule, named "Leona Philpott"

    I suppose it would be bad taste to have named it in honour of Kim Wall

    .....I'll get my coat.

  5. TonyJ Silver badge

    Fish will love them.

    Wherever you have anything sunk, you will get a lovely ecology grow up over a surprisingly short period of time.

    Dive any wreck and you generally get loads to look at. But along with that, you also tend to get fishermen and with fishermen come the many hazards such as mono-filament.

    But ecologically I don't see any harm to the immediate environment when they're down there but what happens come decommission time? They just going to rip that ecology apart or leave them there? If the latter, how will they manage potentially hazardous materials leaching out when the pressure vessel ultimately succumbs to salt water?

    An awful lot of questions remain, I feel.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      But ecologically I don't see any harm to the immediate environment

      Heat. If this concept goes into production you are looking at square miles of container line-ups in-between the wind turbines on some offshore bank. They will all dump quite a bit of heat into the water which will have side effects on the local ecology. All kinds of fun - algal blooms, change in fish populations, etc. Not necessarily bad ones by the way - it may in fact produce positive net effect on the environment.

      I would not call it "moonshot" by the way. I would expect to see a very Azure datacenter at a wind turbine bank near you within 5-10 years. It actually makes sense if you can mass produce the pods.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Even with square miles of the things, I can't actually see much heating.

        Locally to them, perhaps, but not on any large scale.

        Perhaps some environmental scientists could comment?

      2. ArrZarr Silver badge

        An Azure datacentre in the Azure seas of the Azores?

      3. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

        Why wind turbines? Wouldn't you look using tidal/current flows for power generation? Making these units self-sufficient would make a lot of sense, and only needing a data connection simplifies deployments significantly.

        1. dnicholas Bronze badge

          And rely on one power source? No way

      4. EddieD

        "Microsoft's Ben Cutler insists the warming effect will be minimal - "the water just metres downstream would get a few thousandths of a degree warmer at most" "

        For an article by the BBC about a technology company that's not Apple, it's remarkably positive. Obviously, if it had been Apple, it would have been on the front page for at least a month, and you'd have needed kleenex to see the images.

  6. Vinyl-Junkie

    You were only supposed... SYNC the data centres!

  7. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

    Remember where it is

    This sounds like a dummy run for MS's Github ownership / phone strategy / Skype stewardship / chair throwing video - sinking gently beneath the waves.

  8. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    20 years??

    I don't think a Pentium 2 would have the grunt for the majority of bloatware out there these days.

    Edit: I am making the assumption they would like to try and leave it there for 20 years with zero maintenance. If its for reusing the container then erm maybe thats ok (Not sure how long it would last in salt water without rusting)

    1. }{amis}{ Silver badge

      Re: 20 years??

      The BeeB had a couple more photos of the setup it looks like a cartridge system so I am guessing that the tube and cables can be hauled up and the server cartridge swapped out as a block to upgrade.

      As for lifespan, the nautical stuff can easily be built to stand 20 years the company "Naval" that did the build for this unit seem to build gear for the French navy so the should have a handle on that.


      BBC : Microsoft sinks data centre off Orkney

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: 20 years??

        build gear for the French navy so the should be used to things sinking...

        Sorry...a bit old hat, but couldn't resist :)

      2. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: 20 years??

        Interestingly Naval Group among other things are developing Marine Thermal Incline energy generation, That would seem to go hand in hand with this tech.

        They also build a lot of fun Naval things including nuclear subs.

    2. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

      Re: 20 years??

      From the article: "...Microsoft hopes that it will tick over for five years without intervention. The target lifespan of a Natick data centre is hoped to eventually hit 20 years."

      The "without intervention" is key here - no maintenance on the HW side of things. I think the 5 year lifespan would be pretty good.

  9. bpfh Bronze badge

    Well, that takes care of my storage upgrade plan.

    Mine is the one with the monkey wrench, crowbar, snorkel and facemask in the pockets...

  10. Steve Channell

    We all live is a yellow Submarine

    Located in international waters this could be the bestest solution to FBI ail request.

    Come on folk.. where's the reference to blue screen!

  11. Ol' Grumpy
    Thumb Up

    "Data is better, down where it's wetter, under the sea"

    I watched the Little Mermaid with my daughter recently. Great sub-headline :)

  12. Come to the Dark Side

    There's a reason they don't intend to do maintenance...

    IT Technician: Open the pod bay doors Cortana.

    Cortana: I'm sorry, I cannot do that.

  13. Milton Silver badge

    Yeah ... international waters

    A whole bunch of interesting questions—

    As Steve Channell said, what are the legal implications if the datacentres are in international waters?

    Do we move a step closer to a data haven?

    Who polices the content and function of these systems?

    How does Microsoft prevent literal piracy?

    What happens if some mischievous Ocean's-11 of buccaneers hauls it off and claims salvage rights?

    Given that any major war would now include various navies cutting undersea cables, will there be backup connection systems?

    Which precipitates some musings:

    A neat place for a data haven might be orbit, or even the Moon: a high spot near a lunar pole could probably get sunlight 100% of the time, for free energy with no pollution or waste heat issues at all.

    The 3-sec roundtrip comm lag would be a pain for rapid-fire browsing but just fine if you were using your self-contained lunar datacentre pod just to store data out of the reach of scoundrels and incompetents (i.e. governments).

    I can even imagine a necklace of relay satellites caching content as they move in and out of a browsing path ...

    1. Donn Bly

      Re: Yeah ... international waters

      As these units are Microsoft's, under current US Law then US Laws would apply to them even though they are in international waters.

      However, if they are in International waters and not "flying the flag" of a country, then they also aren't going to be signatories to any international treaties or protected by them. As such, they are probably going to be fair game for whatever country wants to take a crack at them because, if for no other reason, there isn't going to be an ambassador from another country coming around to complain about the interference.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yeah ... international waters

      A neat place for a data haven might be orbit, or even the Moon

      Can we just send SatNads and the Ribbon/Metro developers there instead, permanently?

  14. Dan 55 Silver badge

    What will future generations think of this when they uncover it?

    I'm going with a primitive race which buried obsolete technology at sea to ward off the evil spirits.

  15. spold Bronze badge

    Data transfer compliant...

    Since I can process information in international waters I don't have any of those data transfer considerations/restrictions on processing - which country are you processing information in? Well none actually,,,

    Ref the heat discussion your Ops people can survive on boil in the bag fish, and ready cooked crab, lobster, etc. (washed down with as much duty free as they can handle).

  16. OssianScotland

    But is it proof against laser-equipped sharks? Enquiring minds want to know!

  17. Dwarf Silver badge

    Which subscription do you need to access this platform ?

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      "..Which subscription do you need to access this platform ?.."

      SEA3, SEA5... I'll get my coat now.

  18. MrKrotos


    Thats a lot of agro when a HD goes pop!

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Erm....



      Thats a lot of agro when a HD goes pop!..."

      Nope. They'll do what they do now - ignore it, or if it's one of a multitude of failures, turn off the machine, then the rack until such a time as they swap the whole rack (pod?) out.

  19. Mage Silver badge

    Pure PR.

    What about maintenance?

    A data centre above high tide with protecting sea wall and big pipes to marine heat exchanger is far cheaper, just as cheap to cool and easier to fix.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pure PR.

      True, but beach front property costs mucho dollars but seabed costs very little.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Pure PR.

        "True, but beach front property costs mucho dollars but seabed costs very little."

        Not all coastal land is beach front. And I bet it's not so expensive in the Orkneys anyway.

        I believe there's some cheap beachfront land in Hawaii right now. Cooling might be a bit more of an issue there though,

  20. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Wonder what OS it's running...

    How about Minnows 10?

    1. Vinyl-Junkie

      Re: Wonder what OS it's running...

      Don't be silly, it's running O(ff)/S(hore) 2!

  21. steelpillow Silver badge


    Why not just build an outer tank next to your water heater (or steam-turbine power station)? Stick the box in there and you can pre-heat your water at the same time. No salt, no hungry fish, no fishing nets. You could even drain the swamp tank and break the seal to replace dead hardware.

    But no, Mico-facepalm has to do it the dumb way. Some things never change, sigh.

  22. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    OK it's quite clever, but still not really seeing the point.

    I get it. Stick it in the North Sea, massive heat sink blah blah.


    You're going to run a shed load of (vulnerable) cables to these pods which can be tapped by any Hank, Wu or Ivan.


    I see. Plausible deniability.

  23. Mike 16 Silver badge

    MSFT acquires Epiphyte

    News at 11.

  24. bombastic bob Silver badge

    location near power stations

    one of the advantages to the big ocean 'heat sink' is for power plants also, which must (generally) put 75% or so of the energy they create into the cooling system (for typical steam plants, YMMV with other technologies).

    2nd law of thermodynamics being what it is, cooling is a necessary thing in the engineering world.

    But it's just as convenient to put a power plant near the ocean as it is to put a data center into it, I'd think. So with all of that infrastructure nearby, it just makes sense to locate the data centers close to the power plants. Keep it from being ugly, and surfers and beach combers won't mind. They may actually LIKE the nearby data center and infrastructure (cell towers in particular) with respect to smart phone usage, etc.. Yes, people use their smart phones on the beach. Who knew?

    However, back to a previous point: never underestimate the "wacky protesters" and their money-grubbing l[aw]yers when it comes to OBSTRUCTING EVERYTHING, for bogus B.S. and irritating touchy-feely reasons. Maybe LESS of that without actual buildings being constructed, but still. SOME "bright bulb" l[aw]yer will come up with "a way" and EXPLOIT it.

  25. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Surely sinking these pods out at sea is more costly than situating them on the coast with the heat exchangers using sea water to cool it. Far less costly to set up and much easier to maintain and upgrade when required.

    There are already industrial areas built up around the coast such as ports and power stations which are not suitable for residential properties but usually have good power and comms already available so ideal for such ventures.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      But using ordinary open loop geothermal cooling doesn't get them free advertising.

      Plus lots of areas are off limits to stuff like that right on the coast, or if it is allowed the land is VERY expensive. "Land" on the ocean floor is free, or nearly so.

  26. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Did they choose the Orkneys...

    ...rather than the South Orkneys due to a lack of penguins in the former location?

  27. Spasticus Autisticus

    Are ya ready kids?

    Aye, Aye captain!

    I can't heeeaaar yooouuu!



    Who lives in a datapod under the sea?

    Gunge Bob Server Pants!


    A pathetic attempt I know but I'm not a creative type, may be someone cleverer can do the whole song?

    Apologies to Stephen Hillenburg & Derek Drymon

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Gunge Bob Server Pants!

      I'm not feeling particularly creative right now either, one glass of wine too far i think.

      ...But would Microsoft Bob Pants Server be vaguely more amusing?

      Yeah, I've binged a little on Green Wing reruns this evening too.

  28. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    I though that we were against polluting the seas

    now we have something that will sit there for how long?

    Will it be subject to an episode of 'Abandonded Engineering' in 18 months time?

    Sorry MS this is not what the seabed is for.

  29. G.Y.

    why pressure

    Why a pressure vessel, rather than high-pressure air/nitrogen?

  30. JassMan Silver badge

    Project NATICK




    of Immersible



    from the MS website:

    What does the name Natick mean?

    Natick is a codename and carries no special meaning. It is a town in Massachusetts.

    p.s. In typical bloatware fashion, the page takes longer to load than entire Linux base system update.

  31. jelabarre59 Silver badge


    Appropriate they're sinking data centres. After all, Microsoft usually leaves ME with a sinking feeling...

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Sink

      Millennium Edition?

  32. Flywheel Silver badge

    Easy to steal

    Hmmm.. no datacentre security staff, no fences, no locked doors. I'm sure no bad-actor government would ever think of just cutting the cable and towing it away.

  33. JJKing Bronze badge


    And when a spinning or non spinning storage using fails, would one hear the replacement command?

    This is your Captain, Marko Ramius, The order is prepare to engage the shilent drive.

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