Microsoft's Project Natick deploys underwater data center in Scotland

Microsoft has launched an underwater data center off the coast of Scotland as part of a pilot project aimed at providing quickly deployable, unmanned data center units to coastal regions.

The experiment is part of Microsoft's Project Natick, which kicked off with a prototype unit off the Pacific coast of the United States in 2015. The Scottish data center, which now rests on the seafloor near Scotland's Northern Isles, represents the first long-term test to see if the project is viable.

One of the main goals of the project is to not only to provide rapidly deployable internet solutions for coastal cities but to do so in a sustainable way. Once at the seafloor, the pods leverage the low water temperature around them for cooling, overcoming one of the main energy hurdles that plague traditional data centers operated on land. The rest of the pod's energy needs are met by renewable energy sources and delivered by a cable from the Orkney island grid. When operating at full capacity, the data center requires "just under a quarter of a megawatt of power," Microsoft says.

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As for the power behind the data center, Microsoft says it's loaded with 12 racks and 864 servers, along with the infrastructure for the cooling system.

Microsoft says the team will spend the next 12 months monitoring the performance of the data center, keeping an eye on metrics like power consumption, internal humidity, sound, and temperature.

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