Microsoft lowers data centre into water off Orkneys

Tech giant hopes sunken unit will provide quicker and more eco-friendly internet

Microsoft: after each five-year cycle, the vessel would be retrieved, reloaded with new computers and redeployed. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Microsoft: after each five-year cycle, the vessel would be retrieved, reloaded with new computers and redeployed. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Microsoft has sunk a data centre off the coast of Orkney to create quicker, “eco-friendly” internet.

The 40ft cylinder is powered by tidal turbines and wave energy converters, using the water to cool naturally.

It is hoped Project Natick will see data centres able to operate untouched for up to five years.

Cindy Rose, chief executive of the technology giant’s UK business, said: “Microsoft is exploring the idea that data centres – essentially the backbone of the internet – can be based on the sea floor.

“Phase two of this research project has just begun in the Orkney Islands, where a more eco-friendly data centre was lowered into the water.

“The shipping container-sized prototype, which will be left in the sea for a set period of time before being recovered, can hold data and process information for up to five years without maintenance.

“Despite being as powerful as several thousand high-end consumer PCs, the data centre uses minimal energy as it’s naturally cooled.”

Having data centres closer to people using the internet would create faster and smoother web browsing, video streaming and gaming.

One way to do this is by placing them underwater near coasts, according to Microsoft, as more than half of the world’s population live within 120 miles of a shoreline.

The target lifespan of a Natick data centre is at least 20 years.

After each five-year cycle, the vessel would be retrieved, reloaded with new computers and redeployed. – PA