6 June 2018

Microsoft puts data centre under the sea to test efficiency

Microsoft has placed a data centre on the sea floor off the Scottish coast in an innovative environmental test.

The 40-foot long device, now located off the Orkney Islands, is the size of a shipping container and is connected to the mainland through a cable which allows it to store information.

The successful sinking of the device, called Project Natick, is the result of years of work to see if data centres can be stored offshore in a sustainable and efficient way.

Being below the sea also helps to naturally cool the 864 servers, which are as powerful as several thousand PCs.

Orkney was chosen as an ideal location for the data centre given its rough seas and experience in offshore renewables. It is home to the European Marine Energy Centre, which has been experimenting with offshore devices for years.  

Microsoft estimates that its prototype can store and process information without maintenance for up to five years. The facility is also entirely powered by locally sourced renewable energy, taken from the test centre’s tidal turbines and wave energy converters.

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.  It builds on environmental promises Microsoft has made, including a $50m pledge to use AI to help protect the planet.”

Paul Wheelhouse, Scotland’s Energy Minister, added: “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.”

“This development is…especially welcome news also for the local economy in Orkney and a boost to the low carbon cluster there. It helps to strengthen Scotland’s position as a champion of the new ideas and innovation that will shape the future,” he added.

Photo Credit: Microsoft

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