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Microsoft’s underwater data center is rising from the seabed to a dirty success

Illustration for the article titled Microsoft's Underwater Data Center Rising from the Seabed to Dirty Success

Screenshot: Microsoft / YouTube (Fair use)

Microsoft’s data center under the Northern Isles underwater has risen againm sea ​​depth, the company announced Monday, and it is remarkably intact other than being covered in sea foam.

The data center – which Microsoft lowered under 117 feet of water off the coast of Scotland’s Orkney Islands in 2018 – looks like a large, airtight fuel tank. After two years on the seabed, it is now covered in algae, bird horns and sea melons the size of cantaloupe. But Microsoft Special Projects researcher Spencer Fowers said in the announcement that the company was “pretty impressed” with the lack of “hardened ocean growth.”

Inside, 864 servers with a total of 27.6 petabytes of storage and cooling infrastructure defied the elements in an atmosphere of inert gas – Microsoft noted that conditions European Center for Marine Energy the test site may include tidal currents from nine miles per hour and 60 foot waves during storms. In fact, Microsoft claimed that the equipment performed better than land-based systems. Project Natick leader Ben Cutler said in the blog post that the Northern Isles experienced an error rate of only one-eighth what one would expect in a traditional data center, and that it ran “really well” on the region’s energy network, which is 100 percent wind and solar.

This confirms the hypothesis of the seathe floor is to prefer for server companies rather than topside environments where gear can be damaged by corrosion from oxygen and humidity, constant temperature changes and physical movement during maintenance. Putting data centers under water can also enable a closer location for customers and, of course, make cooling much easier, and Microsoft has previously suggested that they may be powered by tidal generators. The devices are also portable and can be easily scaled up major operations.

An obvious problem is that in situ repairs are impossible, although Microsoft wrote in the blog post that servers at luminous data centers have already been replaced twice a year. The company hopes that the increased reliability of subsea servers means “the few who fail early are simply taken offline. ”

That Rating reported in 2018 that the possible environmental impact of underwater data centers is unclear a device may have a negligenceigiimpact on local temperature, but lots of them can have noticeable effects on sealife.

“While there may be significant benefits for companies like Microsoft in transferring data storage systems offshore, the effects of any structure located in the marine environment, especially one that generates significant heat locally, need to be investigated,” University of Portsmouth Marine ecologist Gordon Watson said in the ruling. Watson added that any site should be assessed for environmental impact and that “It is not as easy (at least in countries where they have advanced marine planning legislation) as just sticking something on the seabed and picking it up five years later. ”

There is also the problem of declining returns. Leeds Beckett University School of Computing, Creative Technologies and Engineering Dean Colin Pattinson told Wired in 2018, that while underwater data centers are “worth trying”, efficiency gains to reduce power requirements fall over time.

“What we’re trying to do effectively is squeeze even more savings out of the same basic technology,” Pattinson told Wired. “We may reduce the rate of increase, but there will still be an increase in the energy needs that data centers create due to the amount of data we produce.”

The next phase of the Natick project will demonstrate ease of use removal and recycling.

“We are now trying to take advantage of what we have done as opposed to feeling the need to go and prove something more,” Cutler said in the statement.. “We have done what we have to do. Natick is an important building block that the company can use if appropriate. ”

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