Microsoft Submerges Massive Data Centre Under Sea Off Orkney Islands

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

If Project Natick proves a success, Microsoft envisages sinking groups of five of these cylinders, the report said.

The cylinder is loaded with 12 racks containing 864 servers and associated cooling system infrastructure. It's estimated that half of the world's population live within 120 miles of a coast, so off-shore data centres could lead to faster web browsing, streaming and a boost for AI-driven technologies.

Putting data centers underwater could potentially cut back on maintenance costs as well, particularly when it comes to keeping those data centers cool.

Because there are no people on board, the engineers could remove all the oxygen and most of the water vapour from the atmosphere to reduce the risk of...

Data centers usually generate a lot of heat and companies spend a lot in cooling them. But it also means that it is not possible to fix the servers if any components break.

This time around, the company wants to not only test the feasibility of a similar project in European waters with a slightly larger 40-foot pod but is also looking to bring down the deployment times for the data centre from two years to just 90 days.

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This is a really small data center but the number of servers should be enough to provide Microsoft with data to see if scaling up the project makes sense.

Later in 2016, at DCD's Enterprise event in NY, the company said that the test had proved a success and that it would follow up with larger tests - now, in 2018, it appears that Microsoft is ready to do just that.

The underwater data centre 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.

First, almost half the world's population lives within 150 km (120 miles) of the ocean and that having data centers close to computing hubs means smoother web surfing and less back and forth between users and servers. Interestingly, 100 percent of the region's energy already comes from renewable sources, thanks to wind turbines, solar panels and more experimental sources such as tidal turbines and wave energy converters.

Microsoft's Project Natick team gathers on a barge tied up to a dock in Scotland's Orkney Islands in preparation to deploy the Northern Isles datacenter on the seafloor.

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

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