According to Microsoft, the Orkney project marks the start of the second phase of Project Natick, with the first phase serving to prove the underwater datacentre concept had legs.
Engineers slide racks of Microsoft servers and associated cooling system infrastructure into Project Natick's Northern Isles datacenter at a Naval Group facility in Brest, France. The North Sea is a rather unforgiving body of water, with frequent storms and strong currents, and Microsoft believes that if Project Natick can work here, it can work in an terrible lot of places around the globe. More than half of the world's population lives within about 120 miles of the coast, and by putting datacenters in bodies of water near coastal cities, data would have a short distance to travel, leading to fast and smooth web surfing, video streaming and game playing as well as authentic experiences for AI-driven technologies.
"Our vessel is powered by a combination of solar power, wind power, and offshore tidal and wave energy", says Ben Cutler, the project's manager. This week a group of researchers deployed the first working production data center 117 feet below the surface of the sea, where it is created to work without the need for maintenance for five years.
Nope, James Cameron won't be making a blockbuster about this one day.
The 40-foot structure carries 864 servers on 12 tall racks on the inside and now sits on the seafloor. "It's our belief that this type of data center could lead to reduced costs, and simpler structures that incorporate fewer materials, requiring less maintenance and electricity", a Microsoft spokesperson said.
Microsoft is doing something that sounds very odd at first glance; it has taken a fully functional data center and sunk it into the dark ocean depths.
Companies like Microsoft (msft) and Facebook (fb) that operate big 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.
"Project Natick reflects Microsoft's ongoing quest for cloud data center solutions that offer less resource-intensive options, rapid provisioning, lower costs, and high agility in meeting customer needs", Microsoft said.