Microsoft just sunk a data center into the sea

07 June, 2018, 14:06 | Author: Patty Hardy
  • The Microsoft cylinder is loaded with 12 racks containing 864 servers and associated cooling system infrastructure

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.

This Davy Jones' data centre is the result of a year's worth of research into environmentally sustainable data storage technology that Redmond hopes could one day be ordered to size, rapidly deployed and left to operate at the bottom of the sea for years.

As data centers tend to generate a lot of heat, big providers usually try to move them to cooler countries in order to save on energy bills. Microsoft is testing the theory that the cold ocean depths can cut costs required to keep the data center cool.

Microsoft has been experimenting with its subsea data center technology, dubbed Project Natick, for two reasons: cooling efficiency and latency. "Additionally, because there are no people, we can take all the oxygen and most of the water vapour out of the atmosphere which reduces corrosion, which is a significant problem in data centres".

The data center that went under is essentially a 40-foot long tank that's packed with 12 racks and a total of 864 servers.

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Microsoft notes that more than half of the world's population lives within 120 miles of the coast, and submerging a prepackaged data center in the ocean would be easier than constructing a land-based facility. If things work out as Microsoft hopes, the company foresees a time when it might be able to sink groups of five cylinders and deploy a data center offshore in 90 days.

Why take all this effort to dunk data centers underwater? Then the company will let some customers use the data center.

The presence of EMEC, with its expertise in renewable energy and its knowledge of the seas around Orkney, was one factor behind Microsoft's decision to choose this location. The undersea cable was developed by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), a Microsoft partner in the project.

Orkney was chosen because it is a major centre for renewable energy research. He added, "the water just meters downstream would get a few thousandths of a degree warmer at most".

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