Microsoft researchers are currently testing a prototype of an underwater data centre that they say could reduce cloud latency by locating them nearer to highly populated areas and also eliminate the high-energy consumption usually attributed to data centres. Dubbed Project Natick, the data centres are said to be quickly deployable and do not require cooling.

The Natick data centres would also be connected to wind turbines or tidal energy systems to generate renewable energy for power.

“Project Natick reflects Microsoft's ongoing quest for cloud data centre solutions that provide rapid provisioning, lower costs, high responsiveness, and are more environmentally sustainable,” said Microsoft in a statement.

Microsoft's goal with Project Natick is sustainability, stating that the data centres do not create any waste products, as they're unmanned and submerged. Nor do they require any cooling solutions, with power generation for the servers provided through a turbine or a tidal energy system.

The first module was set 30 feet underwater off the coast of California for four months. The experiment was deemed such a success that engineers extended the time of the experiment and ran commercial data processing projects from Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service. It is now being analysed at Microsoft’s Redmond campus.

Each Natick data centre deployment is estimated to last five years, after which it will be retrieved and fitted with new hardware. Microsoft says that a data centre has a lifespan of at least 20 years, after which it will be recycled.

The project itself is still in the research stages but, Microsoft claims that it is a forward-looking solution to deal with the rising energy demands at data centres.