Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

Microsoft sinks eco-friendly data center off coast of Scotland

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’s effort to build underwater datacenter reaches next phase
Scott Davis | 08 June, 2018, 11:33

Companies like Microsoft (msft) and Facebook (fb) that operate enormous data centers tend to spend a lot of money and effort in cooling the facilities, which can run very hot due to the tremendous amount of servers and gear that essentially power a large portion of the Internet.

The experimental project is Microsoft's effort to see if it can process data in a greener, more affordable manner.

The data centre, which is set to run for five years, is powered using renewable energy from nearby islands vai an undersea cable, although once it is sunk it will be all but impossible to fix.

If Project Natick proves a success, Microsoft envisages sinking groups of five of these cylinders and being able to deploy a data centre offshore in 90 days, whereas it could take years on land. While it will not replace large-scale. EMEC's presence was one of the major factors that led Microsoft to choose the Orkney location.

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

"The world's oceans at depth are consistently cold, offering ready and free access to cooling, which is one of the biggest costs for land-based datacenters", the release said.




The Orkney islands happen to also generate more than 100% of their energy from wind, solar, and tidal sources.

"By putting data centres in bodies of water near coastal cities, data would have a short distance to travel to reach coastal communities".

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

The 40-foot structure carries 864 servers on 12 tall racks on the inside and now sits on the seafloor. However, if anything goes wrong with the servers on board, it can't be repaired as the cost of bringing up the cylinder would be too much.

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 is as powerful as several thousand high end consumer PCs with enough storage for about five million movies.

The cylinder was built in France by a shipbuilding company, Naval, loaded with its servers and then sailed from Brittany to Stromness in Orkney.

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