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Microsoft Deploys Project Natick Self-Sustaining Underwater Data Center Off Scottish Coast

08 June, 2018, 17:08 | Author: Shawna Walton
  • Microsoft’s effort to build underwater datacenter reaches next phase

Submerging the world's first data center has been a multinational affair, with France's Naval building the cylinder, the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) providing its expertise with renewable energy in Orkney, and Microsoft building the servers.

The Project Natick scheme will assess whether the approach has potential for large-scale data centres that otherwise require expensive cooling systems. The North Sea is a rather unforgiving body of water, with frequent storms and strong currents, and Microsoft believes that if Project Natick can work here, it can work in an terrible lot of places around the globe. The capsule hosted a single data center rack that was wrapped in pressurized nitrogen in order to keep it cool.

The software giant was able to cram 12 server racks into the data center, but those racks have enough storage for five million movies.

"We've got so much renewable energy here", says EMEC managing director Neil Kermode. The Northern Isle submarine server which is powered by renewable energy - no fossil fuel is required, was designed focusing on two major factors: the movement of seawater and the techniques used in maintaining submarine climate.

According to Microsoft, more than half the world's population lives within 120 miles of the coast - meaning a datacentre deployed in the water would be closer and more responsive for deploying internet and cloud-based systems for residents of coastal cities.

'We know if we can put something in here and it survives, we are good for just about any place we want to go, ' said Ben Cutler, a project manager in the special projects group within Microsoft's research organization that leads the Project Natick team.

The cylinder containing the servers is 12.2 meters long and 2.8 meters in diameter.

It "will be left in the sea for a set period of time before being recovered, [and] can hold data and process information for up to five years without maintenance". That means Microsoft's data center, which has its electricity supply delivered through an undersea cable, is also not adding to the ever-growing carbon emissions that are driving climate change.

The units runs exclusively on locally sourced renewable power, with an expected life cycle of about five years (which Microsoft hopes to push up to 20 years).

Last year, Microsoft, along with Google and Amazon, raced to buy data centers to deal with their booming cloud businesses.


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