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Microsoft sinks eco-friendly data centre off Scottish coast
08 June 2018, 11:32 | Joann Bryant
The Microsoft cylinder is loaded with 12 racks containing 864 servers and associated cooling system infrastructure
And the new underwater data centre, located in the North Sea near Scotland's Orkney Islands, will be deployed for five years.
Project Natick's Northern Isles datacenter is partially submerged and cradled by winches and cranes between the pontoons of an industrial catamaran-like gantry barge.
The Project Natick data center consists of 864 servers tightly arranged inside a shipping container that sits 12km off the coast.
The date centre now on the Scottish seabed is part of Microsoft's Project Natick. The first phase of Project Natick showed the underwater datacenter concept is feasible while phase two is focused on researching whether the concept is logistically, environmentally and economically practical. "Having data centers closer to billions of people using the Internet will ensure faster and smoother web browsing, video streaming and gaming, while businesses can enjoy AI-driven technologies". The idea is to use the sea as a natural coolant, helping to reduce the energy needed to run the center.
The unmanned facility contains more than 860 servers and is expected to stay in place for a year, with Microsoft engaging with French submarine engineering company, Navel Group, to design the vessel.
Environmentalists anxious about the servers having a direct warming effect on the sea need not worry, says Microsoft, as the company's Ben Cutler told the BBC he would expect the surrounding few metres of sea to be "a few thousandths of a degree warmer at most". And because oceans are uniformly cool below a certain depth, keeping the machines under the sea would cut down the cooling costs that make up a large chunk of the operating budget of data centers. The servers are powered by renewable energy from tidal turbines and wave energy converters.
The software giant was able to cram 12 server racks into the data center, but those racks have enough storage for five million movies.
For this pilot project, Microsoft says it will operate the data center for 12 months.
"Energy self-sufficient data centers could be deployed anywhere within reach of a data pipe, bringing Azure cloud services, for example, to regions of the world with unreliable electricity, and eliminate the need for costly backup generators in case of power grid failures", the release said.
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