Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Money | By Hannah Jacobs

Microsoft Tests Undersea Data Center

Microsoft Tests Undersea Data Center

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. Consider that compared to the many months or even years it takes to approve and develop an on-land data center and you can see why this is attractive. Microsoft sunk a center off the coast of California in 2015, starting a new project to experiment with subsea data storage.

Microsoft on Wednesday tested an undersea data center, which the technology giant claims is quick to deploy and could provide internet connectivity for years.

This particular data center is a fraction of the size of the modern data centers that power cloud computing operations like Microsoft Azure, but its portability and reliance on cold ocean water to keep the systems humming along make it very interesting.

Phase 2 was created to test if the idea was practical in a logistic, environmental and economic sense. This reduces corrosion, which can be a significant problem in data centers, according to a BBC report on the cylinder.

Microsoft chose to work with Naval Group, a 400-year old France-based company with global expertise in engineering, manufacturing and maintaining military-grade ships and submarines as well as marine energy technologies.

Orkney was chosen as an ideal location for the data centre given its rough seas and experience in offshore renewables.

Putting data centers underwater could potentially cut back on maintenance costs as well, particularly when it comes to keeping those data centers cool. By this time, the servers within one of these data centres would normally be retired anyway. If the project proves to be a success, Microsoft hopes to sink more data centers near coastal cities - with the ultimate goal of getting the centers operational within 90 days of the decision to deploy.

Another important aspect of placing data centers under the sea has to do with the fact that half of the world's population stays within 120 miles (200 km) off the coast, meaning data would have a short distance to travel to reach coastal communities. Combined with the cost savings from dealing with heat naturally and the security offered by being on the sea floor, you end up with what could be the obvious next step for data centers.

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