Microsoft has deployed (indeed sunk) a shipping-container-sized datacenter in the sea near Orkney Islands in Scotland as a part of its moonshot initiative dubbed Project Natick.
The 40-feet long datacenter can embrace 12 racks of 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of disk. It can hold data and process information for up to five years without maintenance, Microsoft claimed.
The capsule-shaped Northern Isles datacenter is as powerful as thousands of high-end personal computers. It will harness the low temperature of sea water to cool the datacenter externally. The biggest benefit of this datacenter will be dramatic reduction in cooling costs and electricity consumption.
For cooling the internal hardware, Microsoft is using specialized radiators that leverage technology from submarines. The datacenter was tested in France and has been deployed at the European Marina Energy Centre.
Natick will use artificial intelligence (AI) to detect any signs of failure in servers or any other equipment. It will operate like the standard datacenters deployed on land.
For electrical power, Microsoft has connected the Natick datacenter to Orkney power grid, where the renewable energy is generated using sea-waves and tide, windmills and solar plants.
“Creating solutions that are sustainable is critical for Microsoft, and Project Natick is a step towards our vision of data centres with their own sustainable power supply. It builds on environmental promises Microsoft has made, including a $50m pledge to use AI to help protect the planet,” wrote Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK, in a blog post.
More than 50% of population in the world lives within about 120 miles of the water bodies. Datacenter in water bodies near coastal cities will bring data closer to billions of people who use internet. It will result in fast and smooth web surfing, video streaming, game playing, and authentic experiences for AI-driven technologies.
“For true delivery of AI, we are really cloud dependent today,” said Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft AI and Research. “If we can be within one internet hop of everyone, then it not only benefits our products, but also the products our customers serve.”
Project Natick is currently an applied research project. The team behind it will monitor and record its performance, power consumption, internal humidity levels, temperature levels, etc. for next one year.
Images source: Microsoft