Subsea Cloud, the company proposing to put commercial data centers in deep ocean waters, has moved closer to a physical launch.
The company plans to install a pod near Port Angeles, Washington State. The "Jules Verne" pod will start with of a 6m (20ft) shipping container around nine meters underwater, holding 800 servers, eventually scaling to 100 such pods. It will be followed by two other projects.
Subsea Cloud has previously proposed siting servers in deep (3,000m) ocean waters, in order to make physical security breaches extremely difficult. CEO Maxie Reynolds told us at the time that they were impossible to physically attack: "You can’t do it with divers. You’re going to need some very disruptive equipment. You can’t do it with a submarine, they don’t go deep enough. So you’re gonna need a remote-operated vehicle (ROV) and those are very trackable. It takes care of a lot of the physical side of security, and what I’m finding is that a lot of military industries want to use these for their physical security."
The company seems to be starting with tests in shallower water, much like Microsoft's Natick series of experiments, which eventually led to a two-year trial off the coast of Scotland from 2018 to 2020.
Unlike the Microsoft series of tests, and the commercial data centers being rolled out by Beijing Highlander in China, Subsea Cloud does not use a pressure vessel. Instead, it uses a more conventional shipping container, with pressure equalized between the inside and outside.
“As subsea engineers, we've designed ours to be versatile whilst maintaining its design integrity," Reynolds told us earlier this year. "The data center pods will work in shallow depths just as they will at deeper depths. The design ensures that at any depth, the pressure inside the housing is equal to the pressure outside – we make no changes to accommodate different depths because we don't have to.”
Subsea plans to follow up with a pod called Njord01 in the Gulf of Mexico and has a "provisional" plan to put one called Mannanan in the North Sea. These will reportedly reach depths of about 213 meters.
In a LinkedIn post, Reynolds clarified that Subsea Cloud will be an "underwater landlord," essentially a colocation provider, not a cloud provider (despite the name).
"Data center space rental is similar to leasing an office space. Our leasable spaces provide our tenants’ network connections, stable power supply, cooling and security systems," she said. "We ensure the 'facility' is capable of providing the required IT services whilst being underwater: We build, deploy and maintain subsea data centers. We monitor the asset and we attend to it. We are responsible for the hardware insofar as its environment, including permitting and physical maintenance."
The post suggests the company has already deployed a data center for a client, but one that did not want maintenance: "This is the case with our first deployment, which was for tactical, transitional purposes and which we could not maintain due to the nature of their environment and use case."
Maxie Reynolds will be talking at our Connect Virginia event in Northern Virginia in November