Subsea Cloud plans to open a commercially available underwater data center off the US coast, near Port Angeles, Washington, by the end of 2022, and later launch similar facilities in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea, reports The Register.
The company claims that placing the data center modules underwater can reduce power consumption and carbon emissions by 40%, as well as reduce latency by allowing the data center to be located closer to urban areas, many of which are located near the coast.
However, according to Subsea founder Maxie Reynolds, it can also deploy 1MW of capacity for as much as 90% less than it would take to run 1MW at a land-based facility.
“The savings are the result of a smaller bill of materials, and less complexities in terms of deployment and maintenance,” Reynolds told us. “It’s complex and costly to put in the infrastructure in metropolitan areas, and in rural areas too: there are land rights and permits to consider and labor is slower and can be more expensive.”
The data center in Port Angeles, named Jules Verne, will consist of a single 20-foot pod that is similar in size and dimensions to a standard 6-meter shipping container (TEU or twenty-foot equivalent). According to Subsea, there is room inside for about 16 data center racks that hold about 800 servers. Additional capacity, if and when needed, is provided by adding another capsule. The pod-to-shore link in this deployment provides a 100Gbps connection.
As it is a commercial deployment, Jules Verne will be open for any prospective clients or partners to come and check it out, virtually or otherwise, according to Reynolds. It will be sited in shallow water, visible from the port, whereas the Njord01 pod in the Gulf of Mexico and the Manannan pod in the North Sea are expected to be deeper, at 700-900ft and 600-700ft respectively.
However, Jules Verne is unlikely to be used by many customers, as Subsea expects the data center to serve as a demonstration site for underwater hosting of certification bodies that will periodically inspect the container, which could disrupt customer operations.
Underwater containers are cooled after being immersed in water, which is one of the reasons for reducing energy consumption and, accordingly, CO2 emissions. Inside, the servers are also immersed in a dielectric coolant that conducts heat but does not conduct electricity.
According to Subsea, customers can also schedule periodic maintenance, including server replacements, and the company says it will take 4-16 hours for a team to arrive on site, remove the required unit(s) and replace any equipment.
The viability of underwater data centers has already been demonstrated by Microsoft, which has deployed several over the past decade as part of its Project Natick experiment. The latter was pulled from the seabed off the Scottish Orkney Islands in 2020 and contained 12 racks with 864 servers. Unlike the Subsea containers, the Project Natick hull was filled with nitrogen.
Microsoft reported that only a “handful” of servers failed during the course of its experiment, and Subsea expects its datacenters to require less maintenance due to the reduced risk of environmental contamination like dust and debris and reduced thermal shock.