Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Microsoft's throwing its servers in the sea to keep them cool

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media captionWATCH Microsoft's underwater data centre Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionWATCH Microsoft's underwater data centre
Cristina Norman | 08 June, 2018, 11:33

Project Natick's goal is to determine if subsea data centres of different sizes that are left to operate "lights out" with no maintenance on the sea floor for up to five years are viable.

Data centers have always been criticized by environmental groups for their egregious energy use across the globe. An undersea cable serves the power the data center needs and transfers data from the data center to the internet on shore.

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.

Now, the Project Natick team will monitor the data centre for the next five years.

"Almost half of the world's population lives near large bodies of water", Rose said. The first phase of Project Natick showed the underwater datacenter concept is feasible while phase two is focused on researching whether the concept is logistically, environmentally and economically practical.

The servers are powered by fully renewable electricity from wind farms and solar plants onshore, as well as tide and wave generation from the European Marine Energy Centre in the Orkney Islands, off Scotland.

The sea offers a free and accessible resource for cooling which is one of the biggest costs for land-based data centres.

In phase two, which kicks off today, the company has fit 864 servers on 12 racks in a sealed submersible that's about the size of a standard 40-foot-long shipping container; it's created to function for five years without requiring any maintenance.

The Project Natick data center consists of 864 servers tightly arranged inside a shipping container that sits 12km off the coast.

Microsoft is doing something that sounds very unusual at first glance; it has taken a fully functional data center and sunk it into the dark ocean depths.

Dunking the data center in Orkney waters will limit the cost of cooling the machines - an enormous expense for many data center operators, and it will also allow the center to benefit from the islands' renewable energy, according to Microsoft.

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