Microsoft’s Underwater Data Centers Use Less Power And Record 8 Times Fewer Errors Than Land-based Ones

Earlier this summer, marine specialists uncovered a ship-container-sized data center covered in algae, barnacles and sea anemones from the seafloor of Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

The recovery launched the final phase of a multi-year effort that demonstrated that the subsea data center concept is feasible, as well as practical from a logistical, environmental and economic point of view.

Microsoft’s Project Natick team deployed the Northern Islands data center to the seafloor in spring 2018. Over the next two years, team members tested and monitored the performance and reliability of the data center servers. data.

This type of data center was seen as a potential way to provide fast cloud services to coastal populations and save energy.

More than half of the world’s population lives less than 120 miles from the coast. By putting data centers under water close to coastal cities, data would have a short distance to travel, leading to fast and smooth web browsing, video streaming and gaming.

The cold deep waters also allow for energy efficient data center designs .

Microsoft’s Project Natick team demonstrated that the subsea data center concept was feasible during a 105-day deployment in the Pacific Ocean in 2015. Phase II of the project included the recruitment of marine logistics, shipbuilding and energy specialists. renewable to show that the concept is also practical.

Pressure washing and data collection.

Once removed from the seabed, the watertight steel tube containing the 864 Northern Isles servers and the cooling system infrastructure was washed.

Air samples were taken for analysis, as they left it filled with dry nitrogen.

The clean, air-sampled data center was loaded onto a truck and moved to the Global Energy Group’s Nigg Power Park facility in northern Scotland. There, the Naval Group opened the end cap and removed the server racks while sanitary checks were conducted and components were collected to send to Redmond for analysis.

The subsea data center is eight times more reliable than onshore.

The team hypothesizes that the nitrogen atmosphere, which is less corrosive than oxygen, and the absence of people are the main reasons for this difference. If the analysis shows this to be correct, the team may be able to take the findings to terrestrial data centers.

Our failure rate in the water is one-eighth of what we see on land ,” Cutler said.

Energy, waste and water.

Other lessons learned from Project Natick will help make data centers use energy more sustainably, according to the researchers.

Other benefits related to sustainability may include eliminating the need for replacement parts. In a data center without power, all servers would be changed once every five years. The high reliability of the servers means that the few that fail prematurely simply go offline.

Additionally, Project Natick has shown that data centers can function and stay cool without taking advantage of freshwater resources that are vital to people, agriculture and wildlife, Cutler noted.

There is an increasing need for smaller data centers located closer to customers rather than these large data centers in the middle of nowhere.

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