Microsoft Sinks Data Centre Off Scottish Island For Eco-Friendly Internet

Microsoft's data center

Microsoft’s sunken data centre is part of an experiment to reduce energy costs and increase internet speeds.

Microsoft's data centre

Tech giant Microsoft has sunk a data centre off Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Dubbed Project Natick, it’s purpose is to create quicker and a more “eco-friendly” internet.

The white, 12-meter cylinder that houses computers is powered by tidal turbines and wave energy converters. The water will provide a natural cooling effect to the servers.

Sub-aquatic cable also brings power to the data centre as well as carry data to the shore. However, there is no way to repair the computers on board if they break. The cylinder has 12 racks containing 864 servers and associated cooling system infrastructure.

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.”

“The shipping container-sized prototype, which will be left in the sea for a set period of time before being recovered, can hold data and process information for up to five years without maintenance.

The data centre is as powerful as several thousand high-end consumer PCs. But with the natural cooling effect of the sea, it only uses minimal energy.

If the project proves successful, the company has huge long-term objectives for its future. Microsoft plans to bring data centers closer to people as this would mean faster web browsing, streaming and gaming. And since more than half of the world’s population live within 190km of a shoreline, sinking them underwater near coasts could solve the problem.

Phase 1 of Project Natick showed the underwater concept was feasible. Phase 2 extends the research Microsoft has accomplished in phase one and testing if the concept was logistically, environmentally and economically practical.


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