Microsoft’s new data center goes under the sea - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Efficiency  -  June 8, 2018

Microsoft’s new data center goes under the sea

Microsoft announced it has placed a renewable energy-powered experimental data center at the bottom of the ocean near Scotland’s Orkney Islands. The deployment of this shipping container-size facility marks a milestone in the company’s Project Natick, a years-long research effort to investigate manufacturing and operating environmentally sustainable, prepackaged data center units that can be ordered to size, rapidly deployed and left to operate lights out on the seafloor for years.

"That is kind of a crazy set of demands to make," said Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft AI and Research, who leads the New Experiences and Technologies, or NExT, group, in a statement. "Natick is trying to get there." Project Natick is charged with accommodating exponential growth in demand for cloud computing infrastructure near population centers.

Onshore wind turbines and solar panels, which generate more than enough electricity to supply the islands’ 10,000 residents with 100% renewable energy, are connected via cable from the Orkney Island grid to send electricity to the data center, which requires just under a quarter of a megawatt of power when operating at full capacity.

Colocation with marine renewable energy is a step toward realizing Microsoft’s vision of data centers with their own sustainable power supply, explained Christian Belady, general manager of cloud infrastructure strategy and architecture in Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise division. "Our vision is to be able to deploy compute rapidly anywhere on the planet as needed by our customers," said Belady, who has long advocated research that explores the marriage of data centers and energy generation to simplify and accelerate the build out of cloud computing infrastructure.

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