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Microsoft’s Underwater Datacentre Dubbed Project Natick Retrieved After Two Years

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Microsoft has retrieved the data centre it sank off the coast of Orkney two years ago in what was a pioneer experiment for future and more sustainable underwater data centre. The researchers are now examining the retrieved data centre to see how it performed in the last two year and see to what extent energy consumption was reduced. The idea of choosing Orkney off Scotland for this experiment stems partly from the fact that it is a cold area area in addition to its centre for renewable energy research. Taking advantage of such cool areas would reduce the cost of cooling that is largely associated with land-based data centre operations.

Microsoft has retrieved the data centre it sank off the coast of Orkney two years ago in what was a pioneer experiment for future and more sustainable underwater data centre. #Microsoft #underwater #datacentre Click To Tweet

While they study it, they however concluded that this kind of data centre has a lower failure rate than the conventional one. They say at the time of retrieval of the cylindrical data centre from the sea bed, only 8 of the 855 servers on board had failed in the last two years. The undersea data centre idea called Project Natick did juts as well or even better than some land-based data centres and Ben Cutler who leads Project Natick at Microsoft said data centre. “Our failure rate in the water is one-eighth of what we see on land.”

But could this largely be due to the fact there were no humans on board for maintenance and other functions? Well it would seem that more human interactions with land-based data centres may be one small factor that contributes to the less reliability of servers in the data centre. Microsoft also said it pumped Nitrogen instead of Oxygen into the capsule to maintain aeration and this may have been a factor as well. You see according to Ben Cutler, “We think it has to do with this nitrogen atmosphere that reduces corrosion and is cool, and people not banging things around” are two factors that may have accounted for the reliability and durability of the system overall.

This project comes with increased demand in the computing and storage by individuals and corporations whose operations continue to move towards cloud solutions. This also means that providers like Microsoft also have to figure out a way to accommodate the demand while keeping the planet safe as well. All major tech companies including Apple have all pledged to go green and move towards more sustainable energy alternatives over the next 10 to 15 years. The data centre was intact on the inside at the time of retrieval while the outside had physically changed. The white cylinder had become something close to brown because of a combination of algae and sea anemones among other factors. In one of the pictures provided by the Project Natick team, we can see the data centre body being washed so it can be transported to a research centre where a closer examination will be performed.

What is still unclear though is whether these small datacentre clusters can be fully commercialised because as it stands now, it looks like they may be short to medium term solutions #ProjectNatick #Microsoft Click To Tweet

What is still unclear though is whether these small datacentre clusters can be fully commercialised because as it stands now, it looks like they may be short to medium term solutions rather than long term but that is what the research is supposed to be show eventually. More research in this area could eventually prove whether this is a sustainable  and practical solution with respect to business.

                                                The retrieved undersea datacentre covered in algae

One of the things Scotland as whole is known for is its use of wind energy for electricity supply. There was a major breakthrough in this area back in 2016 when the country reported that wind turbines Scotland’s wind turbines produced electricity equivalent to Scotland’s electricity needs that weekend in August. The generation was bolstered by strong winds of about 180 Km/hr led to a wide disruption of travel plans across the country.

Orkney is known for it use wind and solar for generating all of its electricity and so it wasn’t a problem powering the undersea data centre. Spencer Fowers, one of the technical team on Project Natick said “We have been able to run really well on what most land-based data centres consider an unreliable grid.” He continued, “We are hopeful that we can look at our findings and say maybe we don’t need to have quite as much infrastructure focused on power and reliability.”

The availability of the entire project for commercialisation is yet to be seen but the team is confident that this can become a viable solution. Ben Cutler the project leader said “We think that we’re past the point where this is a science experiment.

                                                    The inside of the undersea data centre

Now it’s simply a question of what do we want to engineer – would it be a little one, or would it be a large one?” Once more research has been done on this, it means we could see Microsoft and other tech giants follow suit to building much bigger underwater data centres.

Besides a more efficient cooling system, there is the benefit security of data centres as the sea bed is not accessible to just anyone.

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