Microsoft sinks datacentre underwater

Microsoft has installed an underwater datacentre in seawater off Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

The size of a shipping container, the 40-foot long datacentre has 12 racks which hold 864 servers plus cooling system infrastructure.

The thinking behind sinking it in 117 feet of water at the European Marine Energy Centre is that is keeps the technology much more cooler than usual and thus boost energy effiency.

The installation is the next phase of what Microsoft calls Project Natick, which the company says is a bid to deliver “self-sufficient underwater datacentrEs that can deliver lightning-quick cloud services to coastal cities”.

The technology giant picked the location because of the high number of renewable resources deployed around Orkney.

Micosoft says Project Natick is “focused on a cloud future that can help better serve customers in areas which are near large bodies of water ” where nearly 50 per cent of society resides. The vision of operating containerized datacentres offshore near major population centres anticipates a highly interactive future requiring data resources located close to users.”

The datacentre is designed to remain immersed for five years without direct intervention and will be operated ‘lights-out’ for a year to evaluate its performance in real use conditions. It was built by French engineering group Naval. The group’s Director of Innovation and Technological Expertise, Eric Papin, said: ” Naval Group has always invested in research and development, most recently in marine renewable energies and we are pleased to participate in Microsoft’s vision for a clean energy future.”

Ben Cutler of Microsoft Research said the project “reflects Microsoft’s ongoing quest for cloud datacentre solutions that offer less resource intensive options, rapid provisioning, lower costs, and high agility in meeting customer needs. A key advantage is getting closer to our customers: half the world’s population lives within 200 km of the sea, so placing datacentres offshore increases the proximity of the cloud to the population, reducing latency and providing better responsiveness. And by deploying in the water we benefit from ready access to cooling ” reducing the requirement for energy for cooling by up to 95 per cent.”

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