Named Project Natick, the experiment saw a shipping-container-sized white cylinder lowered into the sea near the Orkney Islands where it will be left for a set period of time. The prototype can hold data and process information for up to five years without maintenance.
It is hoped that the natural cooling of the sea water will help make the data centre more energy efficient compared to land-based versions. It is also powered by renewable energy from the European Marine Energy Centre's tidal turbines and wave energy converters.
Part of the reasoning behind sinking a data centre off the coast is that almost half the world's population lives near large bodies of water. As the usage of the internet continues to increase, having data centres nearer large populations should result in faster and smoother internet connection.
Another significant problem for data centres that Project Natick is helping solve is the issue of corrosion. As no people will be working in or around the data centre, oxygen and water vapour can be removed from the atmosphere.
Although it is hoped that the computers within the data centre have a much lower failure rate than land-based computers, it is not actually possible to repair them if they do fail. If Project Natick is a success however, Microsoft is hoping to be able to deploy offshore data centres in just 90-days – significantly less than the time it takes to deploy land-based ones.
For more information, visit http://natick.research.microsoft.com/
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