PERISCOPE partner EMEC works with Microsoft on data centres in the ocean
PERISCOPE partner, European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), has sunk a data centre in the sea off Orkney for the computing giant Microsoft to investigate whether it can boost energy efficiency. The data centre, a white cylinder containing computers, could potentially sit on the seabed for up to five years. An undersea cable brings the data centre power and takes its data to the shore and the wider internet, but if the computers onboard break, they cannot be repaired. The installation of the 450-kW data centre marks the start of Phase 2 of Microsoft's Project Natick, which seeks to develop self-sufficient underwater data centres that can provide fast cloud services to coastal cities.
The cylinder was built in France by a shipbuilding company, Naval, loaded with its servers and then sailed from Brittany to Stromness in Orkney. There, EMEC provided help including the undersea cable linking the centre to the shore. EMEC explained that deepwater deployment offers ready access to cooling, a controlled environment and could be powered by co-located renewable power sources, such as the wave and tidal energy technologies pioneered at its test sites.
"Deploying at EMEC in the Orkney Islands, on a grid powered from locally-sourced renewable energy, matches our aspirations as a project and our commitment as a company to environmental sustainability," said Ben Cutler, Natick Project Manager at Microsoft Research.
Microsoft describes the project as out-of-the-box idea to meet rapidly growing demand for cloud computing infrastructure near population centres, whilst being less resource intensive and offering rapid provisioning, lower costs, and high agility.
The project is being partly supported by the INTERREG NWE FORESEA programme which has facilitated continuous remote monitoring from the Microsoft team based in Washington, USA.
Image © EMEC