Software and tech giant Microsoft announced on Wednesday that it has installed an undersea data center just off the coast of the Orkney Islands in Scotland.
The company revealed that the data center is a prototype, which it has installed on the sea floor near the Orkney Islands in Scotland. The data center takes the shape of a huge tube-like cylinder that somehow resembles a submarine and it contains up to 864 servers. It was built and tested in France before it was ferried to the Orkney Island waters and sunk to the bottom of the sea, 100 feet below the surface where it was attached to a triangular base.
The undersea data center uses is connected to a data cable that powers it and also transfers data. Microsoft claims that the data center can go up to five years without the need for maintenance. However, if an onboard server breaks, it cannot be fixed.
There are numerous reasons why Microsoft decided to submerge the data center under the water. Cooling large data centers on land requires a lot of electricity and as a result, it is very expensive. However, having the servers submerged under water presents an alternative that is cheap and one that also eliminates the need for extra infrastructure for cooling. Microsoft thus decided to test out an underwater option to see whether it will be more viable than using land servers.
The idea of underwater servers is also one that is quite promising especially because such servers will rapidly deliver cloud services to coastal cities. However, the main motivation for underwater servers is the need to bring down costs. According to IEEE Spectrum, most data centers are located in areas where electricity rates are cheap and also areas with a cool climate. Unfortunately, this means data centers are located in areas that are far from population centers and this limits the speed at which servers are able to respond to data requests.
Cindy Rose, the CEO of Microsoft UK, recently pointed out in a blog post that almost half of the global population lives near large water bodies. She added that installing servers closer to billions of people makes a lot of sense because data will be transmitted faster, allowing smoother experiences when streaming, browsing, or gaming. It will also allow businesses and organizations to experience AI-powered technologies.
Microsoft has been testing the idea of underwater servers for quite some time. The company completed a trial run for a steel capsule about two years ago and the test run lasted 105 days.