Microsoft announced on Friday that it "is leveraging technology from submarines and working with pioneers in marine energy" in order "to develop self-sufficient underwater datacenters that can deliver lightning-quick cloud services to coastal cities." Their first prototype has now been set on the seafloor near Scotland’s Orkney Islands.
The data center is part of Microsoft’s Project Natick, a years-long research effort in the development of environmentally sustainable, prepackaged datacenter units that can operate on the seafloor for years.
“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.”
Microsoft estimates that more than half of the world’s population lives within about 120 miles of the coast. Therefore by placing data centers near coastal cities, data would have a shorter distance to travel to reach its destination.
“For true delivery of AI, we are really cloud dependent today,” said Lee. “If we can be within one internet hop of everyone, then it not only benefits our products but also the products our customers serve.”
The Northern Isles datacenter is 40 feet long. It packs 12 racks containing a total of 864 servers and it was assembled and tested in France and shipped to Scotland.
A single cable from the Orkney Island grid "sends electricity to the datacenter, which requires just under a quarter of a megawatt of power when operating at full capacity."