Microsoft may use undersea data centres as artificial reefs

Microsoft is forging ahead with its idea to create underwater data centres (known as ‘Project Natick’), with the company now having filed a patent for an ‘artificial reef data centre’ that would not only provide a good home for servers but also ocean life.

Spotted by Patent Yogi, and filed at the end of December, the patent describes a vessel that would hold the data centre and be situated on the ocean floor, or anchored just above it (if the floor was too uneven).

As Microsoft has observed before, taking a data centre underwater offers a number of benefits, including hugely reduced cooling costs (it’s already very cold down there) and easy setup, plus they can be located close to the shore and cities, reducing the distance to population centres and hence reducing latency.

There are also benefits in terms of having a stable environment under the sea which isn’t affected by the likes of storms and so forth.

Green machines

And making the data centre an attractive potential abode for marine life will obviously give Microsoft a thumbs-up on the environmental friendliness front.

The idea will be to design a structure which provides shelter and warmth for sea creatures, with noise from the PCs inside kept to a minimum – Microsoft has previously said the shrimp exploring the sea floor will make more noise than the data centre – and possibly going as far as to disperse nutrients for sea life to feed on.

Microsoft has already conducted trials – for three months back in 2015 it tested out a data centre in a 10 x 7-foot container in the Pacific Ocean which boasted a computing power equivalent to 300 desktop PCs.

Project Natick won’t necessarily be limited to oceans, either, with the likes of lakes and rivers also being considered as possible watery data centre locations.


Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).