Microsoft Sinks Data Center Underwater
If you dive 100ft (~30m) below the surface of the North Sea next to the UK's Orkney islands, you will find Microsoft's newest great accomplishment. A massive underwater data center called Northern Isles, about the size of a shipping container, comprising 864 servers across 12 racks. Completely powered by renewable energy.
The cylindricalno Mook vessel is powered by a combination of solar power, wind power, and offshore tidal and wave energy.
It is predicted that it will remain on the ocean bottom for the next five years.
The idea of Northern Isles Data-center came from Microsoft's Project Natick. It aimed to ship and rapidly place modular data centers in any place on earth. Several people have wanted to d esign such a data center for decades. This is the very first one that succeeds.
“That is kind of a crazy set of demands to make” - said Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft AI and Research - “Natick is trying to get there.”
Their vision is to handle the exponential demand for cloud computing infrastructure near coastal cities. Over half of the human population inhabits within around 120mi (~193km) of the coast. Placing data centers underwater and near coastal cities can provide shorter distances for data to travel and reach consumers. In other words, people will have a better and faster web connection. As Natick's team said: "Fifty percent of us live near the coast. Why doesn't our data?"
By keeping the data center under the sea, the cold water maintains its temperature stable. This alone decreases enormous cooling costs needed in conventional data centers. Also, by placing energy self-sufficient data centers in the ocean, several regions of the world with unreliable electricity will easily access internet. Their need for expensive backup generators won't be an issue anymore.
“For true delivery of AI, we are really cloud dependent today,” - says Peter - “If we can be within one internet hop of everyone, then it not only benefits our products, but also the products our customers serve.”
The underwater performance of Northern Isles Data-center is being tested now, from its energy consumption to temperature, humidity and noise levels.
If Microsoft's plan succeeds, the next step will be creating underwater data centers around the world, using always clean energy as their source and providing us with reliable - and sustainable - internet.
Keywords: Microsoft, data centre, northern isles, project natick