Microsoft sinks a datacentre in the sea off Orkney

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

This is the scond phase of the Natick project and the team is installing a sealed container on the sea bed this week, connected by a power and data cable to the nearby European Marine Energy Centre.

The 12.2m long container uses 240 KW to power 12 racks containing 864 standard Microsoft datacentre servers with FPGA acceleration and 27.6 Pbytes of disk storage. The renewable power all comes from renewable wind turbines via an underwater docking station that measures 14.3m x 12.7m, and the underwater location is meant to reduce the amount of cooling required, reducing the running cost of the datacentre.

The software configured container is expected to last five years and the aim of the project is to test out the operation, cooling, management and redundancy of the system. A container can be deployed within 90 days and uses nitrogen at one atmosphere, which will reduce any problems with corrosion.

“That is kind of a crazy set of demands to make,” said Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft AI and Research, who leads the New Experiences and Technologies, or NExT, group. “Natick is trying to get there. For true delivery of AI, we are really cloud dependent today,” he said. “If we can be within one internet hop of everyone, then it not only benefits our products, but also the products our customers serve.”

This follows the first phase, which was a smaller system operated on the seafloor approximately one kilometer off the Pacific coast of the US from August to November of 2015.

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