Project Nat­ick

Mi­crosoft’s ex­per­i­men­tal dat­a­cen­ter lives un­der the wa­ter.

HWM (Singapore) - - CONTENTS - By Alvin Soon

Mi­crosoft has re­cently de­ployed a dat­a­cen­ter in Scot­land. There’s noth­ing un­usual about that, ex­cept this dat­a­cen­ter was in­stalled un­der­wa­ter, on the seaoor off the Orkney Is­lands.

The North­ern Isles dat­a­cen­ter marks phase two of Mi­crosoft’s Project Nat­ick. The project is a years-long re­search ef­fort look­ing into sus­tain­able, prepack­aged dat­a­cen­ter units, which can be de­ployed on the seaoor with­out main­te­nance.

Phase one, in 2016, tested a pro­to­type that ran un­der­wa­ter for 105 days. Phase two’s North­ern Isles dat­a­cen­ter is de­signed to op­er­ate un­der the sea for ve years with­out main­te­nance. The 40-foot long con­tainer holds 12 racks with 864 servers. And it runs on clean en­ergy; the dat­a­cen­ter gets its elec­tric­ity from wind farms.

The most ob­vi­ous rea­son for set­ting up dat­a­cen­ters in cold bod­ies of wa­ter is that they would be easy to cool. Servers gen­er­ate a large amount of heat, and cool­ing them is ex­pen­sive. It’s why com­pa­nies like Face­book and Google have built data cen­ters in near-arc­tic ground.

A less ob­vi­ous rea­son to run a dat­a­cen­ter in the sea is that more than half of the world’s pop­u­la­tion lives near a coast. Dat­a­cen­ters near coastal ci­ties would shorten the dis­tance between server and client. The closer your smart­phone or PC is to a server, the more likely it is you’ll get a faster, more sta­ble con­nec­tion.

The Project Nat­ick team will spend the next year as­sess­ing the North­ern Isles dat­a­cen­ter’s per­for­mance. Project Nat­ick re­mains a re­search project, but it could one day lead to more clouds un­der the sea.

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