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

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

Companies like Microsoft (msft) and Facebook (fb) that operate huge data centers tend to spend a lot of money and effort in cooling the facilities, which can run very hot due to the tremendous amount of servers and gear that essentially power a large portion of the Internet.

Microsoft executive Cindy Rose said she hopes the work will be replicated at other data centers in the future.

The data center is placed in a cylinder that was made by shipbuilder Naval. By sinking undersea data centers near these coastal cities, Microsoft enables faster web surfing, video streaming, and game playing, while also bolstering cloud-based AI capabilities.

Project Natick's Northern Isles datacenter is partially submerged and cradled by winches and cranes between the pontoons of an industrial catamaran-like gantry barge.

The tech giant sunk a 40-foot vessel, which contains 12 racks of computers and 864 servers, off the coast of Orkney, a group of islands located off Scotland. This area generates 100% of their energy from wind, solar, and tidal sources which mean the Microsoft data center is running totally on renewables via an undersea cable.

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"Almost half of the world's population lives near large bodies of water", Rose said.

Microsoft chose to place the data center in Europe off the shore of Orkney, a major center for renewable energy research, to try and determine if placing a data center under water could boost energy efficiency. Project Natick is the name of the test pilot that uses a small data center, packed into a shipping container and dropped to the bottom of the sea.

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

It is hoped that the research project, known as Natick, will surface design and operational issues to inform whether it can make this a reality for more data centers around the world. This week a group of researchers deployed the first working production data center 117 feet below the surface of the sea, where it is created to work without the need for maintenance for five years.

"Like any new auto, we kick the tires and run the engine in different speeds to make sure everything works well", said Spencer Flowers, who is a senior member of technical staff for Microsoft's special projects.

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