Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Money | By Bruce West

Microsoft deploys underwater datacentre off the coast of Orkney

Microsoft deploys underwater datacentre off the coast of Orkney

During that time, it can hold data and process information while Microsoft assesses its success in terms of operation and energy efficiency.

The data center is placed in a cylinder that was made by shipbuilder Naval.

The underwater datacenter concept was originally presented in a white paper prepared for a Microsoft event called ThinkWeek that encourages employees to share out-of-the-box ideas.

The sea offers ready and free access to cooling - which is one of the biggest costs for land-based data centres.

It is hoped Project Natick will see data centres - described as the "backbone of the internet" - able to operate untouched for up to five years.

The shipping-container sized prototype of Natick was successfully tested on the seafloor on Scotland's coast near the Orkney Islands for 105 days.

"If we can be within one internet hop of everyone, then it not only benefits our products, but also the products our customers serve", Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft AI and Research, said in the release.

Microsoft said that for now, Project Natick is an applied research project, focused on determining the economic viability of operating containerised data centres offshore near major population centres to provide Cloud computing for a world increasingly dependent on Internet connectivity. The servers are powered by renewable energy from tidal turbines and wave energy converters.

Microsoft's vision concerning Project Natick is one of sustainable data centers that operate exclusively from the seafloor, as the demand for cloud computing infrastructure is ever growing.

Putting data centers underwater could potentially cut back on maintenance costs as well, particularly when it comes to keeping those data centers cool. Microsoft says there are many good reasons for drowning a data center. In 2013, Facebook began utilizing the frigid temperatures of northern Sweden to cool its Luleå data center. The company says that almost 50% of the world population lives near the coast so why shouldn't our data be there.

Eventually, Microsoft wants to ramp up and rapidly deploy pre-packaged module data centers everywhere in the world, including "the roughest patchesof sea".

Currently, Project Natick sits on sea bottom owned by the Scottish government, but the data center is designed so it can be delivered where it's most wanted.

The company's latest unit contains 12 racks of computers with a total of 864 servers.

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