Off the coast of Orkney Island in the North Sea, Microsoft has sunk a data center as part of its “moonshot research effort” to make the internet more eco-friendly. The deployment of this data center is the second phase of Project Natick, which is a project with a goal to understand the benefits and feasibility of placing data servers on the seafloor.
According to The Independent, a spokesperson for Microsoft said, “Data centers are the backbone of the internet and as demand for data center resources across the computing industry grows exponentially, we need a solution to data storage that provides both the speed people expect and solutions that are more environmentally sustainable,”
“Microsoft’s Project Natick could herald a new wave of data centers that can be deployed rapidly and inexpensively while increasing data speeds along coastal regions.”
By placing a data center underwater, the energy cost it takes to cool the servers is much lower. Orkney Island was chosen as the location because of its relatively low sea temperatures and since it is home to pioneering renewable energy research.
The tidal turbines and wave energy converters will be generating electricity for the data center. These converters are as powerful as several thousand high-end consumer PCs.
“With our supportive policy environment, skilled supply chain, and our renewable energy resources and expertise, Scotland is the ideal place to invest in projects such as this,” Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said, according to a Microsoft blogpost.
“It helps to strengthen Scotland’s position as a champion of the new ideas and innovation that will shape the future.”
If this project is successful, more data centers will be placed in bodies of water near coastal cities in order to improve the web access for people that live close to the coast.
“It is kind of a crazy experiment,” said Ben Cutler, who heads Project Natick. He also added that future centers could be deployed in as little as 90 days.
Source: Microsoft, YouTube
The engineers in Project Natick also faced some challenges, one of the biggest ones was building a data center that needs no maintenance while in operation. This is because, if anything goes wrong, it will need to be resurfaced to be fixed.
The Orkney data center will be monitored for the next 12 months to judge the future feasibility of this project.
“I’m proud that some of the first milestones achieved by Project Natick will occur in UK waters,” Cindy Rose, chief executive of Microsoft UK, said in the blogpost.
“[I] hope that the work being done in the Orkney Islands will be replicated in similar data centers in other locations in the future.”