Microsoft sunk a purpose built data centre off the coast of Orkney, Scotland as part of project Natick which aims to find out if they can make sustainable, rapidly deployable, lights-out sea floor data centres.
This system is made up of 864 servers in 12 racks, using the sea water for cooling and Orkney’s wind, solar, and tidal power generation for power. The datacentres entire power consumption comes only from the Islands power generation which is pretty cool.
The purpose of the system doesn’t seem to be permanent (or is meant to function for a number of years before maintenance), so those wondering what happens when there’s a hardware failure, nothing, it operates as a lights out system, meaning there’s no access to it once it is deployed. They are designed to be rapidly deployed to coastal areas and function for a set number of years providing computer power to they area they are deployed in, or that is the long term plan at least.
The system uses under a quarter of a megawatt of power when operating at full capacity, using fully renewable energy, and utilising the sea for cooling, its a pretty cool idea.
As it essentially works like a submarine, and looks like they plan to have these ordered to requirements, i wonder if they might go with one of two options. Either that they swap them out at their maintenance window / eol with a replacement and re-purpose the old one, or they pull it up at the maintenance window and carry out maintenance.
Considering that the data centre component essentially slips into the tank, and the like time consume process it would probably be to carry out server maintenance, i feel like they would probably opt for replacing the entire thing, then carry out maintenance of the original back on land before reusing it. Kind of like Space X with their reusable rockets. The containers are definitely made to be reused.
We have various other underwater projects in Scotland, mainly around tidal power generation. Fishing ships will likely be told not to go through that area if required. I don’t know the exact spot they dumped it, but the water can get pretty deep pretty quick here.
This is really cool, but I’m interested in how the cooling is working. Are they using the surface of the pod as a heat exchanger or are they piping seawater into the pod, using a radiator to cool the air inside, or are they using the seawater directly as a watercooling solution?
Each of them has potentially critical drawbacks due to the fact that seawater is both not clean (has junk floating in it) and is incredibly corrosive.
I wonder what state it will be in when they bring it back up. Would it be colonised by plants and creatures at the bottom like the disused NY Subway cars the put into the ocean. Also interested in how it gets the power in and data out, that has to be a potential point of failure and I did not see any cables connected to it.
EDIT: Side joke I forgot to include earlier. One of the things we look at is bringing the cloud closer to out customers. So, Microsoft created Fog datacenters?
I snooped one of the screenshots from Microsoft’s blog. An analytics graphing and alerting software. Open source and has a .deb package. This looks fantastic! Anyone seen this? Going to try it out when home.