Microsoft sinks eco-friendly data centre off Scottish coast

08 June, 2018, 11:34 | Author: Shannon Aguilar
  • Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media captionWATCH Microsoft's underwater data centre

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. The company hopes that it'll eventually ideal this system of deploying data centers that are cheaper to run for years on end.

At the deployment site, a remotely operated vehicle retrieved a cable containing the fibre optic and power wiring from the seafloor and brought it to the surface where it was checked and attached to the data center before switching it on.

In 2014, researchers estimated that data centers were responsible for about 2% of total global greenhouse emissions annually and that number continues to rise as more of the world's population gains access to the internet, cloud computing continues to expand, and artificial intelligence (AI) gets embedded in more and more devices.

By plunging data centres in bodies of water near coastal cities, data would have short distances to travel to reach coastal communities.

Project Natick will stay submerged for five years if all goes to plan. Microsoft is looking for ways to provide better internet connections to coastal cities, where half of the world's population is located.

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Compared to more conventional data centers that can span football fields, Project Natick's underwater facility is a gnat at about 40-feet long and resembles a cylinder-like cargo container typically seen on big, shipping vessels. And because oceans are uniformly cool below a certain depth, keeping the machines under the sea would cut down the cooling costs that make up a large chunk of the operating budget of data centers.

The servers will receive renewable energy through an undersea cable which will also carry data back to shore.

The submerged data center includes 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of storage - or almost 28 million gigabytes.

Last Friday, Microsoft sunk an experimental data center into the sea off the coast from Orkney, north of Scotland. "Underwater data centers could also serve as anchor tenants for marine renewable energy such as offshore wind farms or banks of tidal turbines, allowing the two industries to evolve in lockstep".

For this pilot project, Microsoft says it will operate the data center for 12 months.

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