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

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

Microsoft has deployed a 40ft long underwater datacentre off the coast of the Orkney Islands near Scotland, as part of its ongoing research into the potential use cases for subsea server farms.

Now, the Project Natick team will monitor the data centre for the next five years.

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. "By putting data centers in bodies of water near coastal cities, data would have a short distance to travel to reach coastal communities, leading to fast and smooth web surfing, video streaming and game playing as well as authentic experiences for AI-driven technologies", the company explained in a statement.

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

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

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.

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The sea offers ready and free access to cooling - which is one of the biggest costs for land-based data centres.

The Orkney islands happen to also generate more than 100% of their energy from wind, solar, and tidal sources. It is also far quicker to deploy a data center offshore than build on land.

This particular data center is a fraction of the size of the modern data centers that power cloud computing operations like Microsoft Azure, but its portability and reliance on cold ocean water to keep the systems humming along make it very interesting.

Data centres are power intensive and create a lot of heat, often needing a lot of energy to cool equipment.

Microsoft said the most challenging task was lowering the data center and cable 117 feet to the rock slab floor - an effort that took 10 winches, a crane, a gantry barge and a remotely operated vehicle.

"The shipping container-sized prototype, which will be left in the sea for a set period of time before being recovered, can hold data and process information for up to five years without maintenance".

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