Under the sea, Microsoft tests a datacenter that’s quick to deploy, could provide internet connectivity for years

Microsoft is leveraging technology from submarines and working with pioneers in marine energy for the second phase of its moonshot to develop self-sufficient underwater datacenters that can deliver lightning-quick cloud services to coastal cities. An experimental, shipping-container-size prototype is processing workloads on the seafloor near Scotland’s Orkney Islands, Microsoft announced today.

The deployment of the Northern Isles datacenter at the European Marine Energy Centre marks a milestone in Microsoft’s Project Natick, a years-long research effort to investigate manufacturing and operating environmentally sustainable, prepackaged datacenter units that can be ordered to size, rapidly deployed and left to operate lights out on the seafloor for years.

“That is kind of a crazy set of demands to make,” said Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft AI and Research, who leads the New Experiences and Technologies, or NExT, group. “Natick is trying to get there.”