Commercial Underwater Data Center Goes Online This Year • The Register

A company called Subsea Cloud plans to have a commercially available underwater data center off the US coast before the end of 2022, with additional deployments planned in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea.

underwaterwhich says it has already deployed its technology with “a friendly faction in government” plans to launch its first commercial capsule near Port Angeles, Washington, before the end of this year.

The company claims that placing its data center modules underwater can reduce power consumption and carbon emissions by 40 percent and reduce latency by placing the data center closer to metropolitan areas, many of which are near the coast.

However, according to Subsea founder Maxie Reynolds, it can also provide 1MW of capacity at up to 90 percent less cost than it would take to get 1MW up and running in a land-based facility.

provided by underwater

An illustration showing one of his commercial pods. Image provided by Subsea

“The savings are the result of a smaller bill of materials and reduced complexity in terms of deployment and maintenance,” Reynolds told us. “It’s complex and costly to build infrastructure in both metropolitan and rural areas: there are land rights and permits to consider, and the work is slower and can be more expensive.”

The Port Angeles deployment, known as Jules Verne, will consist of a 20-foot pod similar in size and dimensions to a standard 20-foot shipping container (a TEU, or twenty-foot equivalent unit). Inside, according to Subsea, there is space for around 16 data center racks with around 800 servers. Additional capacity is provided when needed by adding another pod. The pod-to-shore connection in this deployment provides a 100 Gbps connection.

Because it’s a commercial deployment, Reynolds says Jules Verne is open to any potential customer or partner to try, virtually or otherwise. It will be in shallow water and visible from port, while the Njord01 capsule in the Gulf of Mexico and the Manannan capsule in the North Sea are likely to be deeper at 700-900 feet and 600-700 feet, respectively.

Jules Verne is unlikely to be used by many customers, however, as Subsea believes it will be used primarily to demonstrate compliance to organizations and attorneys inspecting the pod and site, and this may disrupt customer operations.

“However, we’re in talks with two of the well-known hyperscalers, so there’s still some room for improvement,” Reynolds said.

The subsea pods are kept cool by being submerged in water, which is one reason for the reduced performance and CO2 emissions. Inside, the servers are also immersed in a dielectric coolant that conducts heat but not electricity. However, the subsea pods are designed to disperse heat passively, rather than using pumps as is common immersion cooling in land-based data centers.

But what happens if something goes wrong or a customer wants to replace their servers? Subsea says customers can schedule regular maintenance, including server replacements, and the company says it would take 4 to 16 hours for a team to come to the site, bring up the required pods and replace all the equipment.

The feasibility of underwater data centers has already been demonstrated by Microsoft, which has deployed several as part of it over the past decade Project Natick Experiment. The youngest was Recovered from the seabed off the Orkney Islands, Scotland, in 2020and contained 12 racks with 864 servers. Unlike the subsea pods, Project Natick’s housing was filled with nitrogen.

Microsoft reported that only a “handful” of servers went down over the course of its experiment, and Subsea expects its data centers to require less maintenance due to less risk of pollution like dust and dirt and less thermal shock.

Subsea said it plans to house data centers in sites that offer various types of renewable energy infrastructure and aims to have its data centers use only renewable energy by 2026. ® Commercial Underwater Data Center Goes Online This Year • The Register

Laura Coffey

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