Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Business | By Pearl Harrison

Microsoft sinks eco-friendly data center off coast of Scotland

Microsoft sinks eco-friendly data center off coast of Scotland

Microsoft hopes to leave the data centre in place for five years without having to intervene - once submerged, it's impossible for engineers to gain access to the facility.

In phase two, which kicks off today, the company has fit 864 servers on 12 racks in a sealed submersible that's about the size of a standard 40-foot-long shipping container; it's created to function for five years without requiring any maintenance. A power and data link is maintained using an undersea cable hooked up to the cylinder and feeding back to Orkney.

Because there are no people on board, the engineers could remove all the oxygen and most of the water vapour from the atmosphere to reduce the risk of...

Over the next year, all aspects of the data center, including power consumption and internal humidity levels, will be monitored by the team. But it also means that it is not possible to fix the servers if any components break.


Project Natick's 40-foot long Northern Isles data centre is loaded with 12 racks containing a total of 864 servers and associated cooling system infrastructure. "The water just metres downstream would get a few thousandths of a degree warmer at most", he said in the report. The quarter of a megawatt required by the data centre is provided by 100% renewable energy via the Orkney electrical grid and the cooling system ingeniously relies on the copious amounts of water surrounding the pod to keep temperatures in check.

The deployment falls under the remit of software giant's Project Natick initiative, which Computer Weekly first reported on in February 2016, and is focused on determining how feasible it would be to build underwater datacentres powered by offshore renewable energy sources. Eventually, Microsoft would like to marry Project Natick to experimental ocean turbines that use wave energy to generate electricity, which could make these data centers entirely self sufficient. This is a lot smaller than the conventional data centers that can cover the enter distance of a football field, some 300-feet.

There have been some apprehensions about an energy explosion in Orkney with the coming of Microsoft's data centers, but EMEC's chief Neil Kermode put those worries to rest.

"Almost half of the world's population lives near large bodies of water", Cindy Rose, Microsoft's United Kingdom chief executive, said in a blog post Wednesday.

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