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Data Centre Sunk off Scottish Coast

Microsoft Research | 3:24

Data Centre Sunk off Scottish Coast

Peter Smisek

11 June 2018

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MICROSOFT has sunk it's latest data centre just off the coast of the Orkney archipelago in Scotland. 

The computer servers that comprise the data centre have been placed in a large white steel cylinder connected to the internet by an undersea cable.

This full scale test, part of Microsoft’s “Project Natick” follows earlier pilots off the coast of California in 2015.

Above: The new data centre comprises servers placed inside a large watertight metal cylinder (image courtesy of Microsoft).

Although the data centre is small compared to the large sheds that have now become commonplace, it can still store the impressive equivalent of five million feature-length films.

Above: Orkney's cold waters provide the ideal environment for cooling the data centre (image courtesy of Microsoft).

By submerging the data centre in the cold water - temperatures vary between 6.2°C in the winter and 14.2°C in the summer - engineers hope to eliminate the need for mechanical cooling, which can consume up to 20% of the total energy used to run such facilities.

Above: 35 workers were needed to submerge and install the new data centre (image courtesy of Microsoft).

In addition to passive cooling, the new data centre is powered by renewable energy harnessed from wind and wave power.

As the new data centre is underwater and not accessible by humans, oxygen and water vapour have been removed from the container, significantly reducing the corrosion rate of the internal components. Engineers plan to leave the data centre on site for five years.

Another major advantage of these sunken data centres is the speed at which they can be deployed. Whereas land based facilities can take years to prepare and build, sunken cylinders such as these can be dispatched in as little as 90 days.

Above: The underwater data centre can be deployed in 90 days, whereas building one on land can take significantly longer (image courtesy of Microsoft).

Don't miss our short documentary on the cooling of data centres. In addition to exploring other measures, the short film covered Microsoft's early trials of Project Natick in the Pacific. 

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