How will project Natick utilise renewable energy and improve sustainability?

Microsoft's pioneering concept of underwater data centres

In efforts to utilise renewable energy, Microsoft has deployed an underwater datacentre off the Orkney Islands in Scotland. The project marks a milestone in Microsoft’s ‘Project Natick’, a years-long research effort to investigate operating sustainable and environmentally friendly data centres. Typically, data centres generate a lot of heat, therefore mechanical chillers are required to keep the centres at an adequate temperature. This can use a lot of resources, which is why Microsoft is sourcing a cheaper, more sustainable solution.

As part of phase 1, in 2015 Microsoft sunk a data centre on the Californian cost for 5 months. The project proved the idea behind the operation was feasible. The recent deployment marks the phase 2, which is intended to discover if the concept is practical in terms of economics and logistics. The data centre is designed to stay on the ocean floor for years and holds 864 servers across 12 racks.

Microsoft have hired ‘Naval Group’ to create the military grade ships and submarines to hold the data centres. The submarines are constructed to pipe in seawater directly through radiators on the back of each server rack and spit this water back out into the ocean.

Microsoft believe that: “By putting data centres in bodies of water near coastal cities, data would have a short distance to travel to reach coastal communities, leading to fast and smooth web surfing, video streaming, and game playing, as well as authentic experiences for AI-driven technologies.”

Analysis and research following phase 2 will tell if this pioneering idea will turn into reality with data centres being submerged into oceans around the world. 

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