DataCenterNews Asia logo
Specialist data center news for Asia
Story image

Microsoft launches ground-breaking undersea data centre in Scotland

By Ashton Young
Thu 7 Jun 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Leveraging technology from submarines, Microsoft has launched an incredible self-sufficient underwater data center that is the culmination of around four years’ work.

The facility is the size of a standard shipping container and is now processing workloads on the seafloor near Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

Microsoft AI and Research corporate vice president and leader of the New Experiences and Technologies group Peter Lee says the project has involved a set of crazy demands to make in pursuing what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calls ‘relevant moonshots’ with the potential to transform the core of Microsoft’s business and the computer technology industry as a whole.

Titled Project Natick, the out-of-the-box idea is a bid to accommodate for exponential growth in demand for cloud computing infrastructure near population centres, as according to Microsoft, more than half of the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the coast. With data centers in bodies of water close to coastal communities, data would have a short distance to travel.

“For true delivery of AI, we are really cloud dependent today,” says Lee.

“If we can be within one internet hop of everyone, then it not only benefits our products, but also the products our customers serve.”

Built in France, deployed in Scotland

The 40-foot long Northern Isles data center is loaded with 12 racks containing a total of 864 servers and associated cooling system infrastructure.

Assembled and tested in France with the help of project partner Naval Group, a 400-year old company with global expertise in engineering, manufacturing, and maintaining military-grade ships and submarines as well as marine energy technologies, the data center was then shipped on a flatbed truck to Scotland where it was attached to a ballast-filled triangular base for deployment on the seabed.

The most complex task of launch – and stressful for those involved – was the foot-by-foot lowering of the data center and cable to the rock slab seafloor, which involved 10 winches, a crane, a gantry barge and remotely operated vehicle that accompanied the data center downwards.

Leader of Microsoft’s Project Natick team Ben Cutler says everything learned from the deployment and over the next year will be invaluable.

“We know if we can put something in here and it survives, we are good for just about any place we want to go,” says Cutler.

Renewable the way to go

The European Marine Energy Centre is a test site that runs experimental tidal turbines and wave energy converters that generate electricity from the movement of seawater. Onshore, wind turbines pepper the fields of farmers while solar panels adorn the roofs of centuries-old homes, combining to generate more than enough energy for the islands’ 10,000 residents.

A cable from the Orkney Island grid sends electricity to the data center – which needs just under a quarter of a megawatt of power when running at full capacity.

Colocation with marine renewable energy is a step towards reaching Microsoft’s vision of data centers with their own sustainable power supply says Microsoft cloud infrastructure strategy and architecture general manager Christian Belady.

“Energy self-sufficient data centers could be deployed anywhere within reach of a data pipe, bringing Azure cloud services, for example, to regions of the world with unreliable electricity, and eliminate the need for costly backup generators in case of power grid failures,” says Belady.

“Our vision is to be able to deploy compute rapidly anywhere on the planet as needed by our customers.”

And in terms of cooling, Naval Group adapted a heat-exchange process used for cooling submarines, whereby seawater is piped directly through the radiators on the back of each of the 12 server racks and back out into the ocean.

The depths of the ocean are consistently cold, thereby offering ready and free access to cooling – eliminating one of the biggest costs of land-based data centers.

Studies from phase 1 of the project assured Microsoft staff that water from the data center rapidly mixes and dissipates in the surrounding currents.

What lies ahead

Over the coming 12 months the Project Natick team will monitor and record the performance of the data center to keep tabs on everything from power consumption and internal humidity to sound and temperature levels.

Cutler says data centers are the physical clouds of cloud computing and given its rapid rise, they need to innovate rapidly.

“When you are in this kind of exponential growth curve, it tells you that most of the datacenters that we’ll ever build we haven’t built yet,” says Cutler.

Lee says that when you go for a moonshot, you might not get to the moon - but that doesn't matter.

“It is great if you do, but, regardless, you learn a lot and there are unexpected spinoffs along the way. You get Velcro at some point. That is happening in this case. We are learning about disk failures, about rack design, about the mechanical engineering of cooling systems and those things will feedback into our normal data centers,” Lee concludes.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Sustainability
Legrand unveils Nexpand, a data center cabinet platform
Legrand has unveiled a new data center cabinet platform, Nexpand, to offer the necessary scalability and future-proof architecture for digital transformation.
Story image
Sustainability
Daikin and SP Group to build new energy efficient district cooling system
The project, set to be complete by 2025, will create a system with a cooling capacity of up to 36,000 refrigerant tonnes (RT). 
Story image
Sisense
Data and analytics could be key to higher selling prices in APAC
Sisense's latest report has found that almost half of data professionals in APAC think customised data and analytics can create better selling prices for their products.
Story image
Colocation
Digital Edge chooses Nortek’s StatePoint for new data center
Digital Edge will use Nortek's StatePoint liquid cooling technology in its new data center, the first commercial colocation operator in Asia to do so.
Story image
Disaster Recovery
Kacific launches emergency connectivity offering, CommsBox
Kacific has announced the release of a new emergency connectivity offering designed to rapidly provide broadband service in emergency or disaster zones.
Story image
Infrastructure
Report - Data investment the key to better business growth
New research from Digital Realty has revealed that almost half (47%) of IT leaders globally believe their business investment in data systems and infrastructure is a key obstacle or concern.
Story image
Power / Energy
DigitalBridge makes $30 million equity investment in LEDC
Leading Edge Data Centres (LEDC) has announced it has secured an AUD$30 million equity investment in its regional edge network from an affiliate of DigitalBridge Group, DigitalBridge.
Story image
SaaS
Cisco reveals new tech, intends to prevent network issues
Cisco has revealed new technology intended to mitigate costly disruptions by aiding IT teams in learning, predicting and planning.
Story image
Data Center
Digital Edge to build South Korea's largest commercial data center
The project will be the largest commercial data center project in South Korea with total IT power of 120MW and a capital investment of more than KWR$1 trillion.
Story image
Cable
New high-performance cable in the works for Asia
A new high-performance submarine cable is being built to enhance connectivity between Hong Kong, China and Southeast Asia.
Softiron
For every 10PB of storage run on HyperDrive vs. comparable alternatives, an estimated 6,656 tonnes of CO₂ are saved by reduced energy consumption alone over its lifespan. That’s the equivalent of taking nearly 1,500 cars off the road for a year.
Link image
Story image
Sustainability
NTT launches IoT Services for Sustainability offering
"We know what actions are needed to build a more sustainable future and have a robust suite of technologies available to help deliver this impact."
Story image
Sustainability
AirTrunk boosts Japan presence with West Tokyo data center
AirTrunk is planning to build TOK2, a new hyperscale data center in Japan which will strengthen the company’s presence in the country.
Story image
Data Center
Sime Darby Berhad to use Equinix APAC data centers
Equinix has expanded its digital infrastructure services, including its International Business Exchange data centers, to Sime Darby Berhad
Story image
Sustainability
Power at the edge: the role of data centers in sustainability
The Singaporean moratorium on new data center projects was recently lifted, with one of the conditions being an increased focus on power efficiency and sustainability.
Story image
Telstra
Telstra expands business offerings in the Philippines
The expansion aims to offer more choice for customers and enhance connectivity into the Philippines, and within the country.
Story image
Microsoft
SAS Viya on Microsoft Azure to deliver 204% return - study
The Forrester Total Economic Impact study finds SAS Viya on Microsoft Azure brings a 204% return on investment over three years.
Story image
Hyperscale
SpaceDC partners with Aofei for data center sales in Asia
SpaceDC has partnered with Aofei Data International to sell Aofei's data centers, CDN and SDN in China.
Story image
Sustainability
YTL unveils development of solar-powered data center campus
YTL Power (YTL) has announced the development of a 500MW data center campus in Johor, the first data center park in Malaysia to be powered by solar energy.
Story image
Red Hat
Red Hat expands capabilities to provide streamlined application development in cloud
"Application development is undergoing significant change and developers need tools to support this transformation."
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft unveils adaptive accessories for disability access
Microsoft is introducing an expansive Inclusive Tech Lab to give people with disabilities greater access to technology through new software features and adaptive accessories.
Story image
Tech Data
Tech Data to use Pluribus Networks’ cloud solutions in APAC
Tech Data says using Pluribus Networks' Unified Cloud Fabric solution will be a "game-changer" for its data center infrastructure customers and partners.
Story image
Data Center
Preventing downtime costs and damage with Distributed Infrastructure Management
Distributed Infrastructure Management (DIM) can often be a lifeline for many enterprises that work with highly critical ICT infrastructure and power sources.
Story image
Akamai
Akamai announces new products across security, computing
Akamai has announced a series of new products and updates to existing products across its security and compute product lines, including its entry into the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) market.
Story image
Databricks
Databricks grows in APAC market, expands into Korea
Databricks officially launches a local office in Seoul, Korea, building on existing partnerships with Cloocus, Megazone and the Weverse Company
Story image
Sustainability
Siemens showcases new automated solutions for data centers
Siemens has implemented new automated solutions and AI in the Baltic region's largest data center, providing insight into the future of data center management.
Story image
BitTitan
Why tenant consolidation is critical to cloud success
Consolidating tenants can improve cost management, security and engagement after a flurry of reactive activity following the widespread shift to remote operations.
Story image
Storage
Energy storage demand momentum continues, says BYD
BYD has announced an expansion of its production capacities and will deliver 250,000 units of its energy storage system, BYD Battery-Box Premium.
Story image
Data Center
Tier III Ready Datacenter solutions shortlisted for major awards
"These designs will accelerate data center clients' own Tier III certification, reduce the cost, and fast-track their time to market."
Story image
Kacific
Kacific launches service to combat enterprise power outages
Kacific Broadband Satellites Group has launched Enterprise Backup, a new service intended to protect organisations against frequent power outages.
Story image
Surveillance
Genetec launches new enclosure management system for data centers
Genetec has released a new enclosure management solution that will give data centers the ability to secure, monitor and manage access to racks and cabinets remotely.
Story image
Cybersecurity
A10 Networks finds over 15 million DDoS weapons in 2021
A10 Networks notes that in the 2H 2021 reporting period, its security research team tracked more than 15.4 million Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) weapons.
Story image
Power / Energy
Keysight Technologies introduces new next-gen DPT solution
Keysight Technologies has announced its new next-generation Double-Pulse Tester (DPT) with the PD1550A Advanced Dynamic Power Device Analyser.
Story image
Sustainability
ABB unlocks sustainable energy upgrades for data centers
ABB says its new microgrid solutions will get data centers ready for the green revolution and use their own energy sources with a reduced carbon footprint.
Story image
Research
New strategies for cloud-native attacks - Aqua Security
New research from Aqua Security reveals attackers are using more sophisticated techniques to target cloud-native environments.
Story image
Data Center
Equinix enters Africa, closing US$320 million acquisition of MainOne
The completion of the acquisition augments Equinix's long-term strategy to become a leading African carrier-neutral digital infrastructure company.
Story image
SD-WAN
Orange moves Siemens AG’s entire operations to a SD-WAN
Orange Business Services has migrated Siemens AG's entire global operations, 1168 sites across 94 countries, to a SD-WAN
Story image
Sustainability
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - SoftIron CMO on Data Center Sustainability
In a special Power/Energy feature week presentation, we are joined by SoftIron CMO Andrew Moloney.
Story image
Digital Transformation
EdgeConneX enters Indonesia, plans for data center campus
EdgeConnex has announced it is expanding its presence in Asia with the acquisition of GTN Data Center in Indonesia.
Story image
Cybersecurity
The 'A-B-C' of effective application security
Software applications have been a key tool for businesses for decades, but the way they are designed and operated has changed during the past few years.
Exabeam
Find out how a behavioural analytics-driven approach can transform security operations with the new Exabeam commissioned Forrester study.
Link image
Story image
Digital Transformation
Multiplex, NEXTDC making strong progress on S3 data centre
Multiplex has made a significant achievement on Stage 1 of NEXTDC’s S3 data centre, ‘topping out’ the structure in the Artarmon on Sydney’s lower North Shore.
Story image
Sustainability
Grasping the opportunity to rethink the metrics of a sustainable data centre
A data centre traditionally has two distinct operations teams: the Facility Operations team, and the IT Operations team. Collaboration between them is the key to defining, measuring, and delivering long-term efficiency and sustainability improvements.
Story image
Hyperscale
Seagate, Phison partnership to improve data center offering
Seagate and Phison have announced plans to expand their SSD portfolio to assist data center customers in reducing total cost ownership (TCO).