Microsoft just put another data center underwater

Spencer Fowers senior member of technical staff for Microsoft's special projects research group

Alistair Hardaker 10:16am 6th Jun 2018 Spencer Fowers senior member of technical staff for Microsoft's special projects research group

"Energy self-sufficient data centers could be deployed anywhere within reach of a data pipe, bringing Azure cloud services, for example, to regions of the world with unreliable electricity, and eliminate the need for costly backup generators in case of power grid failures", the release said.

Why take all this effort to dunk data centers underwater?

French marine engineering company Naval Group designed and built the subsea data centre for Microsoft. More than half of the world's population lives within about 120 miles of the coast, and by putting datacenters in bodies of water near coastal cities, data would have a short distance to travel, leading to fast and smooth web surfing, video streaming and game playing as well as authentic experiences for AI-driven technologies.

Now, the Project Natick team will monitor the data centre for the next 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.

Project Natick gets electrical power from a cable connected to a wind farm on the Orkney Islands, and that cable also serves as the conduit for the data processed under the sea.

Dubbed Project Natick, the vessel is the second from Microsoft after it launched a similar project off the Pacific Coast. The company says that almost 50% of the world population lives near the coast so why shouldn't our data be there.

Cindy Rose, chief executive of the technology giant, said: "Microsoft is exploring the idea that data centres - essentially the backbone of the internet - can be based on the sea floor".

The cylindrical storage container is loaded with 12 racks containing a total of 864 servers and has a self-sustaining cooling system that Microsoft has adapted from the heat-exchange process used in submarines. Now, the company is looking to do the same off the coast of the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, an archipelago northeast of Scotland.

Oceans also provide consistent cool temperatures which is essential for a data center to run well, cooling down data centers is what costs its operator (and the environment) heavily, so removing that cost makes sense too.

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.

E3 2018: Hitman 2 Will Not Be Episodic, Launches 13th November
Organic Matter Found On Mars, Nasa Announces