Microsoft sinks deep sea data centre off Orkney

Microsoft sinks deep sea data centre off Orkney

Tidal turbines and wave energy converters will help power the data center, which is as powerful as several thousand high-end consumer PCs.

For around five years, Microsoft has been experimenting with subsea data centres having previously sunk one on the Californian coast for five months in 2015.

The data centre was towed out to sea where it was lowered underwater, switched on and connected to data backhaul to shore through a combined fibre-optic and power cable.

In 2014, researchers estimated that data centers were responsible for about 2% of total global greenhouse emissions annually and that number continues to rise as more of the world's population gains access to the internet, cloud computing continues to expand, and artificial intelligence (AI) gets embedded in more and more devices. Since most of the world's population lives within about 120 miles of the coast, data needs to travel less distance to reach coastal people.

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". The sinking of its data center into the sea off Scotland's Orkney Islands was intentional, reports the BBC.

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

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Spencer Fowers, senior member of technical staff for Microsoft's special projects research group, prepares Project Natick's Northern Isles datacenter for deployment off the coast of the Orkney Islands in Scotland.

Compared to more conventional data centers that can span football fields, Project Natick's underwater facility is a gnat at about 40-feet long and resembles a cylinder-like cargo container typically seen on big, shipping vessels.

The software giant was able to cram 12 server racks into the data center, but those racks have enough storage for five million movies.

This wouldn't be the first time when Microsoft has tested this idea.

Oceans also provide consistent cool temperatures which is essential for a data center to run well, cooling down data centers is what costs its operator (and the environment) heavily, so removing that cost makes sense too.

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