Microsoft brings underwater data center back up after two years

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Microsoft has resurfaced its underwater data center off the Scottish coast and investigated the state of the 864 servers in the tube. According to the company, relatively few servers have had problems.

Earlier this summer, Microsoft fished up its ‘data center’ that was in the sea near the Scottish island of Orkney. The tube with twelve server racks was at a depth of more than 35 meters and had to be rinsed thoroughly before it could be opened. Microsoft had the tube underwater in the spring of 2018 as part of Project Natick.

Since then, Microsoft has been analyzing the performance and reliability of the 864 servers in the confined space. The hypothesis was that the reliability of servers in a closed container placed on the seabed would be higher, partly because under these conditions no negative influence of rust due to oxygen, humidity, temperature fluctuations and people would occur. Before Microsoft closed the container in 2018, the company filled the space with nitrogen.

In the two years at the bottom of the sea, the failure rate one-eighth that of onshore data centers, according to Microsoft. The BBC writes that it concerns eight servers that had problems. The initiators think that the use of nitrogen and the absence of people who can nudge systems are mainly responsible for the relatively good problem ratio. The project team members believe they can use the insights to improve data centers on land.

According to project manager Ben Cutler, Microsoft can also leverage Project Natick’s findings for its data center sustainability strategy to minimize consumption, waste and water use. Cutler foresees the combination of an underwater data center with an offshore wind farm, where a fiber optic cable to land includes a backup cable for the power supply.

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