The experimental project is Microsoft's effort to see if it can process data in a greener, more affordable manner.
The first phase saw the company sink a prototype in the Pacific off the coast of California in August 2015. After three months, it was pulled up and brought back to Microsoft's Washington state headquarters for analysis.
The second phase will test the feasibility of deploying a larger model -- 12.2 meters in length and 2.8 meters wide -- that contains 864 data center servers and 27.6 petabytes of disk storage. It's as powerful as several thousand high-end consumer PCs, with enough storage for about 5 million movies.
The units run solely on locally sourced renewable power, with an expected life cycle of about five years (which Microsoft hopes to push up to 20 years).
"Our vessel is powered by a combination of solar power, wind power, and offshore tidal and wave energy," says Ben Cutler, the project's manager.
The name Natick comes from a town in eastern Massachusetts.
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