In a major step towards storing data and making data centres energy self-sufficient, Microsoft has sunk a data centre in the sea off Orkney to investigate whether it can boost energy efficiency, BBC reported.
According to the report, Orkney was chosen ‘because it is a major centre for renewable energy research.’ The deployment of the Northern Isles data centre at the European Marine Energy Centre marks a milestone in Microsoft’s Project Natick, a years-long research effort to investigate manufacturing and operating environmentally sustainable, pre-packaged data centre units that can be ordered to size, rapidly deployed and left to operate lights out on the seafloor for years, Microsoft said Wednesday.
The data centre was assembled and tested in France and shipped on a flatbed truck to Scotland where it was attached to a ballast-filled triangular base for deployment on the seabed. At the deployment site, a remotely operated vehicle retrieved a cable containing the fibre optic and power wiring from the seafloor and brought it to the surface where it was checked and attached to the data centre, and the data centre powered on.
Microsoft is leveraging technology from submarines and working with pioneers in marine energy for the second phase to develop self-sufficient underwater data centres that can deliver lightning-quick cloud services to coastal cities. Having data centres with their own sustainable power supply could boost Internet connectivity around the world as data centres are regarded as the backbone of the Internet and the physical clouds of Cloud.
This could be a special benefit for people living in coastal cities. By putting data centres in bodies of water, data would have a short distance to travel to reach coastal communities, leading to fast and smooth Internet connectivity.
The world’s oceans at depth are consistently cold, offering ready and free access to cooling, which is one of the biggest costs for land-based data centres. Underwater data centres could also serve as anchor tenants for marine renewable energy such as offshore wind farms or banks of tidal turbines, allowing the two industries to evolve in lockstep, the software maker said.
While the idea that the cost of cooling the computers will be cut by placing them underwater has been welcomed by environmental activists, however, security experts have been quick to criticise Microsoft for not considering the security implications of this deployment. They argue the data centre will be easy prey for terrorists and for that matter for anyone once the location has been identified, leading to extremely high investment in providing 24x7 security.
For those uninitiated, Project Natick is an applied research project, focused on determining the economic viability of operating containerised data centres offshore near major population centres to provide cloud computing for a world increasingly dependent on internet connectivity.