Microsoft sinks data centre off Orkney

08 June, 2018, 11:33 | Author: Salvatore Jensen
  • Spencer Fowers senior member of technical staff for Microsoft’s special projects research group prepares Project Natick’s Northern Isles datacenter for deployment off the coast of the Orkney Islands in Scotland

Microsoft has sunk an underwater data centre in the sea off Orkney to investigate the benefits of deploying sub-sea data centres around the world.

"The deployment of the Northern Isles datacenter at the European Marine Energy Centre marks a milestone in Microsoft's Project Natick, a years-long research effort to investigate manufacturing and operating environmentally sustainable, prepackaged datacenter units that can be ordered to size, rapidly deployed and left to operate lights out on the seafloor for years", researchers noted in the release.

Several years ago, Microsoft got the ball rolling on a very interesting project: undersea data centers.

"We know if we can put something in here and it survives, we are good for just about any place we want to go", said Microsoft's special projects researcher, Ben Cutler, in the blog post.

As a major player in the cloud infrastructure market, Microsoft is keen on figuring out better ways to store and power its machinery.

Data centres in the water near coastal cities puts them closer to users, improving the performance of web apps and services, video streaming, games and the delivery of realistic artificial intelligence experiences, the company said.




Microsoft has installed an underwater data centre in a Scottish sea to determine whether it can save energy by cooling it in the water.

Cooling is a huge cost in any large-scale computing operation, meaning that the ocean's naturally low temperatures reduce the energy and money required to maintain the servers which connect other computers to the internet. The entire town runs on renewable energy, making the data centers right at home. The energy centre is a test site for experimental tidal turbines and wave energy converters that generate electricity from the movement of seawater.

Microsoft notes that more than half of the world's population lives within 120 miles of the coast, and submerging a prepackaged data center in the ocean would be easier than constructing a land-based facility.

The Northern Isles data center contains 12 server racks and 864 servers.

"Like any new vehicle, we kick the tires and run the engine in different speeds to make sure everything works well", said Spencer Flowers, who is a senior member of technical staff for Microsoft's special projects.

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