For several years now, Microsoft’s Project Natick has sought to answer a simple question: if 50% of us live near the coast, then why doesn’t our data? This week, the company took a step towards addressing the issue, with the launch of a prototype datacentre. Dropped into the North Sea.

In this world of massive data creation and consumption, cloud computing has become nigh indispensable. And even though our storage methods have become increasingly tinier and more dynamic, the fact remains that we need large amounts of hardware in order to run datacentres. Add to that the fact that these structures create massive amounts of heat, and generally aren’t great for the environment, and you have yourself a problem with location, location, location.

Team Natick, from left to right: Mike Shepperd, Samuel Ogden, Spencer Fowers, Eric Peterson, Ben Cutler

Microsoft’s New Experiences and Technology (NExT – I know, edgy right?) team, led by corporate vice president for AI and Research Peter Lee, came up with Project Natick in order 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.”

Sounds impossible… but they’re doing it.

The team’s shipping container-sized prototype, located off the coast of Scotland’s Orkney Islands, runs on renewable energy and is already processing workloads. This is exciting stuff, so exciting that the project has its own minisite where you can learn about what’s going on, or you can read Microsoft’s official release here.

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