Undersea bit-barn biz offers 90-day trial of submerged server system

Testing platform for those 'unfamiliar with the subsea environment'

Subsea Cloud is offering potential customers the chance to try out its underwater datacenter facilities for up to 90 days before making any further commitments, in a bid to attract new customers to the project.

The bit barn biz, which specializes in subsea datacenter deployments, said that its scheme is a change in approach from that taken over the last three years, where it conducted one-on-one trials with clients, as these proved costly.

Subsea claims that customers using its kit will see a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions and a 30 percent reduction in operational expenditure, plus no cooling costs.

Dubbed Project OTTO, the testing scheme will be a rolling trial using one datacenter unit, deployed off the coast of South-West Norway. The first phase is set to take place in October, and participants can select a test period of 30, 60, or 90 days.

However, each participant will have the opportunity to engage in a trial phase only once, unless they make significant hardware modifications that would require further testing, Subsea said.

“Project OTTO offers a testing platform for companies seeking power and cost reductions, but that remain unfamiliar with the subsea environment,” said Subsea founder and CEO Maxie Reynolds.

Subsea Founder and CEO Maxie Reynold

Subsea founder and CEO Maxie Reynold

She explained that the new scheme is driven “by practical and mutual benefits” as it eliminates the costs and the financial burden associated with the previous one-on-one approach.

However, Subsea did not make it clear if the trials are free of charge for potential customers. We have asked for clarification.

The company announced back in 2022 that it was deploying its first commercially operated unit in the waters near Port Angeles in Washington State, and that it planned others in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea. The pod-to-shore link in that deployment was said to provide a 100Gbps connection.

Each datacenter unit is 20 x 8.5 feet (6.1 x 2.6 meters), or much the same size and dimensions as a standard shipping container. Each can hold up to 16 racks, or 826 servers, according to the company.

Subsea said it can provide servers, or clients can bring their own kit and simply rent power, space and connectivity, just like an on-shore colocation provider.

The business is not the first to try out undersea datacenter operations. Microsoft notably ran a trial codenamed Project Natick off the coast of the Orkney Islands in Scotland that Redmond hailed as a success, but which ended with the barnacled bit barn being retrieved in 2020. However, a Chinese project was getting underway near Hainan Island, according to a report from New Scientist at the end of 2023.

Perhaps the lack of easy access is one factor that may put off potential users of undersea datacenters. Subsea says it can take between 4-16 hours for them to retrieve a unit and replace or maintain the servers. However, it claims overall maintenance costs are significantly lower.

These wouldn’t be the most remote datacenter sites suggested, however. The European Commission previously announced a feasibility study into putting datacenters in orbit, while US startup Lonestar Data Holdings aimed to put datacenters on the Moon's surface.

Subsea said it is also pursuing colocation opportunities with offshore wind farms. This would give it ready access to renewable energy, overcoming challenges related to power transmission, and potentially taking advantage of existing permits. ®

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