China to trial commercial underwater data centres

The port of Hainan is to launch a commercial undersea data centre near the Changjiang nuclear power plant. The facility will operate in 100 airtight vessels built by marine specialist Bejing Highlander and operated by ISP Bejing Sinnet. Highlander’s prototype is based on Microsoft’s original concept ‘Project Natick’ which was able to operate a 12 rack facility off the coast of Scotland for two years.

Highlander plans to build 100 pressure vessels known as ‘data cabins’ across five years. These miniature facilities will be powered by a combined power and internet cable. The project could be a carbon-neutral facility, as energy will be sourced from the nearby Changjiang nuclear power station and the surrounding sea water will cool the site naturally without having to expend additional power reducing the overall PUE. These features will lower the running costs of the data centres although it is unclear whether this will be enough to offset the cost of the initial investment.

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