Microsoft sinks eco-friendly data center off coast of Scotland


The device is the work of Microsoft and it could remain underwater for up to five years as part of an investigation into energy efficiency.

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 company has already experimented with one such data centre back in 2016 with a 30-foot Natick pod situated near the coast of California to test the feasibility of the project.

The centre is a 40ft (12.2m) long white cylinder containing 864 servers which is enough to store five million movies and could be left in the sea for up to five years.

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Data centres in the water near coastal cities puts them closer to users, improving the performance of web apps and services, video streaming, games and the delivery of realistic artificial intelligence experiences, the company said. The North Sea is a rather unforgiving body of water, with frequent storms and strong currents, and Microsoft believes that if Project Natick can work here, it can work in an bad lot of places around the globe. And because oceans are uniformly cool below a certain depth, keeping the machines under the sea would cut down the cooling costs that make up a large chunk of the operating budget of data centers. "Underwater data centers could also serve as anchor tenants for marine renewable energy such as offshore wind farms or banks of tidal turbines, allowing the two industries to evolve in lockstep".

In a bid to save the planet while making some money, Microsoft just drowned one of its data centers at sea. Microsoft says there are many good reasons for drowning a data center. "It's our belief that this type of data center could lead to reduced costs, and simpler structures that incorporate fewer materials, requiring less maintenance and electricity", a Microsoft spokesperson said.

"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.

As data centers tend to generate a lot of heat, big providers usually try to move them to cooler countries in order to save on energy bills.