Microsoft plunges self-sufficient data center into sea off Scotland

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The servers will receive renewable energy through an undersea cable which will also carry data back to shore. Consider that compared to the many months or even years it takes to approve and develop an on-land data center and you can see why this is attractive.

Microsoft submerged one of its data centers in the Atlantic Ocean Wednesday as part of an effort to understand how the machines work on the sea floor.

Microsoft has deployed a submarine-like data center into the waters off the coast of Orkney, a group of islands located off Scotland. Then the company will let some customers use the data center.

Cindy Rose, Microsoft's UK Chief Executive, said: "Creating solutions that are sustainable is critical for Microsoft, and Project Natick is a step towards our vision of data centres with their own sustainable power supply".

Spencer Fowers of Microsoft's special projects research group seals a logo onto Project Natick's Northern Isles datacenter in preparation for deployment.

The 12-rack cylinder was built in France by a shipbuilding company, Naval, with Microsoft foreseeing future deployments where cylinders are sunk in groups of five - which could be why Microsoft patented artificial reefs made out of data centers previous year. "The water just metres downstream would get a few thousandths of a degree warmer at most", he said in the report. According to Microsoft, it's about energy efficiency and fast data transfer.

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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. EMEC's presence was one of the major factors that led Microsoft to choose the Orkney location.

The company said as around half of the world's population lives near large bodies of water.

It is 12.2 metres long and 3.18 metres wide, and contains 12 racks with 864 servers in total supplemented by field programmable gate array (FPGA) accelerator cards.

The deployment falls under the remit of software giant's Project Natick initiative, which Computer Weekly first reported on in February 2016, and is focused on determining how feasible it would be to build underwater datacentres powered by offshore renewable energy sources.

This will save Microsoft the cost for cooling data servers on land.