Monday, 25 June, 2018

Microsoft deploys underwater datacentre off the coast of Orkney

The Microsoft cylinder is loaded with 12 racks containing 864 servers and associated cooling system infrastructure The Microsoft cylinder is loaded with 12 racks containing 864 servers and associated cooling system infrastructure
Orlando Vargas | 08 June, 2018, 11:34

Spencer Fowers of Microsoft's special projects research group seals a logo onto Project Natick's Northern Isles datacenter in preparation for deployment.

If the project proves to be a success, Microsoft hopes to sink more data centers near coastal cities - with the ultimate goal of getting the centers operational within 90 days of the decision to deploy.

Microsoft is pursuing what it calls a "relevant moonshot"; projects the company believes have the potential to transform the core of its business and the wider cloud computing industry. "Having data centers closer to billions of people using the Internet will ensure faster and smoother web browsing, video streaming and gaming, while businesses can enjoy AI-driven technologies".

Putting data centers underwater could potentially cut back on maintenance costs as well, particularly when it comes to keeping those data centers cool. The servers are powered by renewable energy from tidal turbines and wave energy converters.

Environmentalists anxious about the servers having a direct warming effect on the sea need not worry, says Microsoft, as the company's Ben Cutler told the BBC he would expect the surrounding few metres of sea to be "a few thousandths of a degree warmer at most". The entire town runs on renewable energy, making the data centers right at home.

The Northern Isles data center consists of a 40-foot (12.2 metre) long white cylinder containing 864 servers - enough to store five million movies - and can lie on the seabed for up to five years. Project Natick is the name of the test pilot that uses a small data center, packed into a shipping container and dropped to the bottom of the sea.

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The world's oceans at depth are consistently cold, offering ready and free access to cooling, which is one of the biggest costs for land-based datacenters.

Microsoft submerged one of its data centers in the Atlantic Ocean Wednesday as part of an effort to understand how the machines work on the sea floor.

Data centers usually generate a lot of heat and companies spend a lot in cooling them.

Microsoft says they will operate Project Natick for a test period of a year.

The experimental shipping container-sized prototype, called "Project Natick", is now in operation on the seafloor next to the European Marine Energy Centre, just off the Northern Isles.

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