Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Microsoft sinks nearly 1,000 servers to boost internet speeds

Spencer Fowers senior member of technical staff for Microsoft's special projects research group Alistair Hardaker 10:16am 6th Jun 2018 Spencer Fowers senior member of technical staff for Microsoft's special projects research group
Lindsey Cook | 08 June, 2018, 11:34

Companies like Microsoft (msft) and Facebook (fb) that operate big 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.

Project Natick's goal is to determine if subsea data centres of different sizes that are left to operate "lights out" with no maintenance on the sea floor for up to five years are viable.

Why take all this effort to dunk data centers underwater? An undersea cable powers the data center, providing it with an internet connection as well.

The data center is placed in a cylinder that was made by shipbuilder Naval. "Having data centers closer to billions of people using the Internet will ensure faster and smoother web browsing, video streaming and gaming, while businesses can enjoy AI-driven technologies".

Project Natick will stay submerged for five years if all goes to plan.

More than half the world's population lives less than 200 kilometres from the coast, Microsoft noted.

Microsoft kicked off the second phase of its experimental underwater data center project Wednesday, submerging a shipping-container sized data center with 864 servers near the Orkney Islands in Scotland.

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It is hoped that the research project, known as Natick, will surface design and operational issues to inform whether it can make this a reality for more data centers around the world.

As a major player in the cloud infrastructure market, Microsoft is keen on figuring out better ways to store and power its machinery.

The hope is that it won't need as much fixing as a traditional data centre anyway, as the server submarine they're sinking will have most of the oxygen and moisture taken out of its atmosphere, hopefully reducing corrosion.

With a total of 27.6 petabytes of disk storage, the data centre has enough space for about five million full length movies. It is also far quicker to deploy a data center offshore than build on land.

The cylinder is powered by tidal turbines and wave energy converters.

"When I first heard about this I thought, "Water...electricity, why would you do that?'" said Ben Cutler, the project manager who led the team behind the experiment, in a story about the project on Microsoft's new site".

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