US software giant Microsoft chucks 40-ft data centre into sea off Orkney to save money on energy bills

The self-cooling internet server into sea off Orkney by Microsoft.
The self-cooling internet server into sea off Orkney by Microsoft.

US software giant Microsoft has submerged a data centre off the Orkney islands in a project to save money on the energy used to cool the servers on land.

The data centre consists of a 40-foot long white cylinder containing 864 servers – capable of storing five million movies  – and can lie on the seabed for up to five years.

An undersea cable brings electricity, from Orkney’s renewable energy network of wind turbines and tidal power, to the centre and carries data from the servers to the shore and the internet.

Cindy Rose, chief executive of the technology giant, said: “Microsoft is exploring the idea that data centres – essentially the backbone of the internet – can be based on the sea floor.

“Phase two of this research project has just begun in the Orkney Islands, where a more eco-friendly data centre was lowered into the water.

“We’re working with pioneers in marine energy to develop self-sufficient underwater datacenters.”

Computer servers line up on racks before being loaded into Microsoft's subsea server
Computers line up on racks before being loaded into Microsoft’s subsea server

It is powered by renewable energy generated nearby from the European Marine Energy Centre tidal turbines and wave energy converters, which generate electricity from the movement of the sea.

Rose added: “Creating solutions that are sustainable is critical for Microsoft, and Project Natick is a step towards the company’s vision of data centres with their own sustainable power supply.”

7 Jun 2018

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