Microsoft retrieves data centre from the bottom of the ocean after two-year experiment

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |

September 16, 2020 11:46:41 am





Microsoft retrieves data centre from the bottom of the ocean after two-year experimentIn a recent blog post, Microsoft revealed that the underwater data centre had a lower rate of failure than a conventional one. (File photo)

In the spring of 2018, Microsoft plunged a shipping container-sized data centre, packed with 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of storage, to the bottom of the Scottish sea near Orkney Islands. After retrieving the data centre — now coated in algae and barnacles — the software major announced on Tuesday that its two-year experiment has confirmed the viability of storing data hundreds of feet deep in the ocean, BBC reported.

Launching the final phase of its ambitious Project Natick, Microsoft deployed a team of marine specialists to reel up the data centre and power-wash it before inserting a number of test tubes through a valve at the top of the vessel to collect air samples for analysis.

In a recent blog post, Microsoft revealed that the underwater data centre had a lower rate of failure than a conventional one. A mere eight out of a total of 855 servers were found to have failed when the container was retrieved from the ocean floor.

“Our failure rate in the water is one-eighth of what we see on land,” Ben Cutler, a project manager who led Project Natick, said in a press release, according to BBC. According to the team, the reduced failure rate was due to the atmosphere of nitrogen, which is less corrosive than oxygen, as well as the absence of a human crew.

The research team behind Project Natick also found that keeping the mammoth cylindrical data centre underwater also significantly lowered the cost of cooling computers. The team was also interested in the sustainability of storing data under water and whether it will bring down the amount of energy used to run computations on huge collections of data, Vice reported.

One of the reasons the team selected Orkney Islands to conduct the experiment was because the grid here is completely powered by wind, solar and experimental green energy technologies. “We have been able to run really well on what most land-based data centres consider an unreliable grid,” Spencer Fowers, a member of the technical team, said in the press statement.

“We are hopeful that we can look at our findings and say maybe we don’t need to have quite as much infrastructure focused on power and reliability,” Fowers added. In the future, Microsoft says that it hopes to run the underwater data centres by swapping out servers every five years. If a server occasionally fails, it will simple be taken offline.

“As we are moving from generic cloud computing to cloud and edge computing, we are seeing more and more need to have smaller data centres located closer to customers instead of these large warehouse datacenters out in the middle of nowhere,” Fowers explained.

Next up on the Project Natick team’s agenda is to show that servers can easily be removed and recycled once they reach the end of their life, the Verge reported.

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Zeeshan Laskar

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