Microsoft just sunk a data center into the sea

The Microsoft cylinder is loaded with 12 racks containing 864 servers and associated cooling system infrastructure

If successful, Microsoft will keep operating the servers, and allow its customers to use it to run their own computations.Currently, Project Natick sits on sea bottom owned by the Scottish government, but the data center is designed such that it could fit into standard shipping containers and delivered where it's most wanted.

Cindy Rose, chief executive of the technology giant, said: "Microsoft is exploring the idea that data centres - essentially the backbone of the internet - can be based on the sea floor".

Cooling is a huge cost in any large-scale computing operation, meaning that the ocean's naturally low temperatures reduce the energy and money required to maintain the servers which connect other computers to the internet. An undersea fibre-optic cable brings power to the data centre and transfers data to the shore and web users.

Companies like Microsoft (msft) and Facebook (fb) that operate enormous data centers tend to spend a lot of money and effort in cooling the facilities, which can run very hot due to the tremendous amount of servers and gear that essentially power a large portion of the Internet.

The Northern Isles data center contains 12 server racks and 864 servers.

The first phase saw the company sink a prototype in the Pacific off the coast of California in August 2015. It would take years to deploy a similarly sized data center on the land. The biggest challenge for Microsoft is that you can't send a network admin or service tech to fix any computers that go down when the data center is under water.

The data center is placed in a cylinder that was made by shipbuilder Naval. The undersea cable was developed by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), a Microsoft partner in the project. "It's our belief that this type of data center could lead to reduced costs, and simpler structures that incorporate fewer materials, requiring less maintenance and electricity", a Microsoft spokesperson said.

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