Microsoft sinks a data center off the Scottish coast

Microsoft has placed a data center in the Scottish sea to determine whether it can save energy by cooling it in the sea. Data centers typically generate a lot of heat, and big providers try to move them to cooler countries to save on energy bills. Microsoft has been experimenting with subsea data centers for around five years, and previously sunk a data center on the Californian coast for five months back in 2015.

Today’s underwater data center will be deployed for five years, and includes 12 racks with 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of storage. That’s enough storage for around 5 million movies, and the data center is as powerful as thousands of high-end desktop PCs. The data center will be powered by an undersea cable and renewable energy from the Orkney Islands. The cable will also connect the servers back to the internet.

Microsoft hopes the research project, dubbed Natick, will surface design and operational issues to inform whether it can make this a reality for more data centers around the world.


If they can sink enough into this to make it work on a big scale, I bet there are a whole sea of companies who would benefit from cheaper cooling systems for server farms. They could totally flood the market – go for 100% saturation.

Cut it out!

You mean fillet it out? No but seriously, having edge data centers close to customers could be a sea. Imagine being drop Kubernetes nodes only a stones from the worlds metropolises. Enabling SMBs to develop immersive, low latency live VR, telepresence, IOT apps with only a modest budget. This is one of the coolest things Microsoft is working on… unfortunately this doesn’t seem cheap. Perhaps Google’s larger datacenter ships harbor more efficiencies and have the same edge node/cooling/space benefits.

*sea change, stones throw… arrrrg, longer edit times please.

Leave this website now please!

crap – replied to the wrong person!

Maybe one day I’ll sail off into the sunset – but not today!

That was incredible. Thank you.

Just a drop in the ocean, my friend…

I know we’ve never met but I’m pretty sure I love you.

We’re all just ships that pass in the night…

We’ll see how it goes. Depending on the results of this test, they may have to water things down here and there, and at worst, it’s a sunk cost.

Indeed. It could be a titanic failure.

And what do you do when hard drive dies in one of these servers, send sysadmins in aqualungs? I guess servers will slowly degrade until it is financially viable to take the whole unit out and service it.

They’ll remotely spin up other ones to replace it. I would assume they have built in multiple drives that are not required for this very purpose.

or maybe you know they thought about a workaround before paying for all that

Isn’t there a problem in putting so much excess heat in the ocean? I’m not impling, I’m only genuinely interested to the argument.

Wait. Are you suggesting a couple tens of kilowatts of heating will have any kind of measurable effect on the sea ? To quote someone else: "it would take 8.77 quadrillion kWh to raise the temperature of the ocean by 1 degree C"

The effect on water temperature by an especially warm day will have FAR more of an affect than a datacenter at the coast underwater.

The entire ocean, sure – I was coming here to ask the same sort of thing but about the immediate water surrounding the datacenter. Obviously you’re not going to sink something like this into the Great Barrier Reef or anything, but there must be some potential for it to harm marine life.

I’m going to venture a guess that it’s probably not much worse than warming the air around a regular datacenter. I’m also guessing that that will be part of the data they will be gathering during the project.

You probably shouldn’t drop one of these on a small lake… Nuclear Power plants have had similar complaints, most fish prefer it to be a little warmer… unfortunately some vegetation doesn’t like it, having effects up the chain. As long as the body is big enough and there is a good water current it shouldn’t be a problem.

I dont think hes particularly worried about ONE data center…also not particularly worried about an entire ocean, but a smaller ecosystem.

It will have an impact on the local ecology.

I was thinking more on a mass production scale, than this single experiment, in the event that this goes well, but I can see now that my question was waaaaaaay too vague ^^;;;

They blame red tides on warming waters. You would think people would be in an uproar over something like this. One thing is certain… plant and marine life in the immediate vicinity will most definitely be altered.
I wouldn’t be too worried about this one. It’s the next one, then the one after that, and then the dozen built the year after.
But hey, as long as we are driving electric cars… right?

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