Microsoft Installs Prototype Underwater Datacenter

Microsoft Installs Prototype Underwater Datacenter

"Naval Group's deep expertise in innovative marine technologies, including renewables, makes it an ideal choice for collaboration on Phase 2's design, fabrication, and deployment of a standard, manufacturable, rapidly deployable datacenter".

According to a statement from Microsoft, its first underwater datacenter was to ascertain the possibility of operating a data center at the ocean floor, while the second test is in view of learning if the "concept is logically, environmentally and economically practical". One of the more interesting possibilities it is now exploring is the use of a self-sustaining undersea data centre, which could simply be dropped on the ocean floor near a population centre.

Microsoft has started testing a new energy-efficient data center which is sitting on the seabed off the coast of Orkney.

Corporate vice president of Microsoft AI and Research, Peter Lee, said: "For true delivery of AI, we are really cloud dependent today".

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 cylinder is powered by tidal turbines and wave energy converters. Energy consumption costs can be cut by using ever more efficient hardware, but also by tapping into renewable energy sources.

Microsoft's vision concerning Project Natick is one of sustainable data centers that operate exclusively from the seafloor, as the demand for cloud computing infrastructure is ever growing.

"Energy self-sufficient data centers could be deployed anywhere within reach of a data pipe, bringing Azure cloud services, for example, to regions of the world with unreliable electricity, and eliminate the need for costly backup generators in case of power grid failures", the release said.

Orkney was chosen as a location because it is a major centre for renewable energy research. Installed near the coast, this type of installation is less resource intensive, offers rapid provisioning and could be located closer to customers: half of the world's population lives and works within 200 kilometers of the coast.

Microsoft says the underwater data centers are built to last up to 20 years, though they have an anticipated real lifespan of five years.

The company's latest unit contains 12 racks of computers with a total of 864 servers.

Producing and deploying a subsea data center takes Microsoft about 90 days.

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