Microsoft sinks nearly 1,000 servers to boost internet speeds

Microsoft Project Natick

Microsoft Project Natick

The data center will be powered by renewable energy generated on the Orkney Islands, specifically the European Marine Energy Center, which researches tidal and wave power.

Microsoft has installed an underwater data centre in a Scottish sea to determine whether it can save energy by cooling it in the water.

A cable, running under the sea, powers the centre and transports the data to the shore and the wider internet.

This marks the second phase of Project Natick, which kicked off in 2015 when Microsoft unloaded a mini-data center off the central California coast, where it ran for 105 days. While it will not replace large-scale.

The Northern Isles data center contains 12 server racks and 864 servers. 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.

According to the release, their goal is to create "self-sufficient underwater data centers that can deliver lightning-quick cloud services to coastal cities" using "experimental, shipping-container-sized" prototypes. Microsoft is looking for ways to provide better internet connections to coastal cities, where half of the world's population is located.

Project Natick gets electrical power from a cable connected to a wind farm on the Orkney Islands, and that cable also serves as the conduit for the data processed under the sea. However, if anything goes wrong with the servers on board, it can't be repaired as the cost of bringing up the cylinder would be too much.

"Like any new auto, 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. It is as powerful as several thousand high end consumer PCs with enough storage for about five million movies.

There's still a lot of research that needs to be done to make sure these designs are environmentally sustainable and reliable, and Microsoft will closely monitor the performance and environmental impact of this data center over the next year.

The cylinder was built in France by shipbuilding company Naval and driven to the Orkney Islands, an archipelago of around 70 islands.

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