Microsoft Sinks Data Center in the Sea to Meet Environmental Goals

Microsoft Sinks Data Center in the Sea to Meet Environmental Goals

Microsoft staff will be monitoring the data center for the next year to see how it survives under water.

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.

Project Natick is now in its second phase, with the initial part of the program having determined that underwater data centres are feasible through the deployment of a submerged facility off the coast of California in 2016. The initiative, known as Project Natick, began in July 2014 and officially moved into phase two on Tuesday, according to a Microsoft press release. Project Natick is now operating at about 100 ft below the surface of the North Sea near the UK's Orkney islands, fully powered by renewable energy.

Data centres in the water near coastal cities puts them closer to users, improving the performance of web apps and services, video streaming, games and the delivery of realistic artificial intelligence experiences, the company said. Microsoft is testing the theory that the cold ocean depths can cut costs required to keep the data center cool.

With a total of 27.6 petabytes of disk storage, the data centre has enough space for about five million full length movies.

Christian Belady, general manager of cloud infrastructure strategy and architecture, said their hope is to one day have a fleet of data centers with their own sustainable power supply that can be sent anywhere.

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"Despite being as powerful as several thousand high-end consumer PCs, the data centre uses minimal energy as it's naturally cooled".

"Like any new vehicle, we kick the tires and run the engine in different speeds to make sure everything works well", said Spencer Flowers, who is a senior member of technical staff for Microsoft's special projects.

"We think we actually get much better cooling underwater than on land", says Ben Cutler, who is in charge of what Microsoft has dubbed Project Natick.

The Orkney islands happen to also generate more than 100% of their energy from wind, solar, and tidal sources.

"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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