Microsoft's Data Centre Willingly Gets in the Sea

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

The undersea cable was developed by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), a Microsoft partner in the project. Project Natick is now operating at about 100 ft below the surface of the North Sea near the UK's Orkney islands, fully powered by renewable energy.

More than half of the world's population lives within about 120 miles of the coast.

The sea offers a free and accessible resource for cooling which is one of the biggest costs for land-based data centres. That's a tiny fraction of some of the huge servers-covering hundreds of thousands of square feet-that tech companies like Microsoft operate.

Microsoft has submerged an experimental data center into the ocean floor of the Northern Isles near Scotland.

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Two years back, Microsoft first revealed its research project Project Natick which explored the possibility of running a datacentre under water.

The Orkney islands happen to also generate more than 100% of their energy from wind, solar, and tidal sources. Cooling the servers inside a modern data center is nearly as expensive as buying the equipment itself, and a networked sequence of underwater data centers could provide computing power to places around the world where environmental conditions make land-based data centers impractical. Microsoft staff will be monitoring the data center for the next year to see how it survives under water.

Microsoft is hoping that the offshore data center will have a lower failure rate than data centers on land.

There's still a lot of research that needs to be done to make sure these designs are environmentally sustainable and reliable, and Microsoft will closely monitor the performance and environmental impact of this data center over the next year. "It's our belief that this type of data center could lead to reduced costs, and simpler structures that incorporate fewer materials, requiring less maintenance and electricity", a Microsoft spokesperson said.

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