Microsoft Just Dumped a Data Center Into the Ocean

Gladys Abbott
June 8, 2018

The BBC reports that Microsoft has encased a tiny data center with 12 racks of servers in a cylinder that'll sit on the ocean floor for up to five years.

Spencer Fowers of Microsoft's special projects research group seals a logo onto Project Natick's Northern Isles datacenter in preparation for deployment.

The project has moved into its second phase, where researchers will watch the submerged data center for one year and see if it is economically and environmentally viable.

The date centre now on the Scottish seabed is part of Microsoft's Project Natick.

"When you are in this kind of exponential growth curve, it tells you that most of the datacenters that we'll ever build we haven't built yet", said Ben Cutler, leader of the Project Natick team in the release. "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. Microsoft is testing the theory that the cold ocean depths can cut costs required to keep the data center cool. Cooling is one of the biggest costs associated with operating a conventional data center, so if submersing them can help save in that area, it's good news indeed.

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The cylindrical storage container is loaded with 12 racks containing a total of 864 servers and has a self-sustaining cooling system that Microsoft has adapted from the heat-exchange process used in submarines.

Microsoft says they will operate Project Natick for a test period of a year. Microsoft is looking for ways to provide better internet connections to coastal cities, where half of the world's population is located. This area generates 100% of their energy from wind, solar, and tidal sources which mean the Microsoft data center is running totally on renewables via an undersea cable.

Companies like Microsoft (msft) and Facebook (fb) that operate enormous data centers tend to spend a lot of money and effort in cooling the facilities, which can run very hot due to the tremendous amount of servers and gear that essentially power a large portion of the Internet.

Keeping this in mind, Microsoft has designed the pod in a manner which wouldn't require maintenance for up to five years.

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