As the second phase of the Natick project, Microsoft used submarine technology and marine energy leaders to develop a new self-sufficient underwater data center to provide lightning-fast cloud services to coastal cities. Microsoft recently announced that its subsea data center is being commissioned under the seabed load near the Orkney Islands in Scotland.
* The Natick project's North Island Data Center sinks to a 117-foot deep rocky seabed along the shores of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, completely submerged. Microsoft's Natick project is a one-year research effort to investigate the feasibility of manufacturing, sustainable operations, and pre-packaged data center units that can be ordered based on size, and that can be quickly deployed on the ocean floor silently. Running for many years. (Photo provided by Microsoft)
The deployment of the North Island Data Center at the European Ocean Energy Center is another milestone in the Microsoft Natick project. This multi-year research project aims to explore the manufacturing and operation and maintenance methods of environmentally sustainable pre-installed data centers so that they can be customized to size, quickly deployed and run on the seabed for a long period of time.
Peter Lee, vice president of Microsoft's artificial intelligence and research division and head of Microsoft's NExT business unit, said: "Although this is a series of crazy ideas, the Natick project is constantly turning them into reality."
This is a project described by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella as comparable to the "Moon Project". It can even transform the core business of Microsoft and even the entire computer technology industry. The Natick project is a breakthrough idea that can meet the large demand for cloud computing infrastructure in densely populated areas.
More than half of the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the coast. By deploying data centers in waters near coastal cities, data can reach coastal communities within a short distance, supporting fast and smooth Internet surfing, live video, games, and other AI-based experiences.
Peter Lee stated: "To achieve true artificial intelligence, we are now very reliant on cloud computing. If each of us can be in the same network environment, then this will not only benefit our products, but will also enable the products our customers serve. Benefits."
*Spencer Fowers is a senior technical staff member of Microsoft's special project research team. He is preparing for the Natick project's North Island Data Center in Orkney, Scotland. The data center will be fixed on a submarine triangle base filled with ballast weights. (Photo: Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)
From France to Scotland
The Natick project is loaded with 12 racks at the 40-foot North Island Data Center, which includes 864 servers and associated cooling system facilities. The data center was packaged and tested in France and shipped to Scotland using a flatbed truck. In Scotland, the data center is fixed on a triangular base filled with ballast weights for deployment on the sea floor.
On the day of deployment, the weather was calm and the sea was covered with a layer of dense fog. Leading the Natick team Ben Cutler, Program Manager of the Microsoft Research Special Projects Group, said: "For us, this is a perfect weather."
The data center was dragged to the surface of the sea and was partially submerged by seawater. It was hoisted by a winch and crane between an industrial catamaran-style gantry barge. At the deployment site, a remotely operated vehicle retrieves a cable containing fiber and power lines from the seabed, takes it to the surface for inspection and connects to the data center, which opens the data center.
Cutler said: "With the elimination of these risks, people are finally relieved." At this point, the last fog broke up.
The most complicated task of the day was to sink the data center and cables to a 117-feet deep rocky seabed. The crew used 10 winches, a crane, a gantry barge and a remotely operated car to coordinate the deployment of the data center.
Cutler said: "The most pleasing moment of the day is that the data center slowly sinks into the ocean following a well-designed route." Once the data center reaches the bottom of the sea, the dragonfly will be released and the noose will be dragged to the surface. The operational control of the North Island Data Center will be transferred to shore.
Everything learned from the deployment, operation, and eventual restoration of the data center on the seabed will enable researchers to compare their expectations based on the reality of underwater operations.
* The Microsoft Natick project team gathered at a barge based on the Orkney Islands, Scotland, to prepare for the deployment of a data center in the northern archipelago on the sea floor. From left to right in the picture are: senior research engineer Mike Shepperd, senior software engineer Sam Ogden, senior technician Spencer Fowers, researcher Eric Peterson, and project manager Ben Cutler. (Source: Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)
Renewable energy supply
The northern archipelago is a follow-up chapter of the Natick project. It tells the story of “study whether it is possible to use the existing logistics supply chain to transport and quickly deploy a modular data center to anywhere in the world (and even the harshest conditions in the waters)”.
Cutler said: "We know that if we can put something here and make it survive, then we can put things wherever we want to go."
The European Ocean Energy Center is a test site for experimental tidal energy turbines and wave energy converters that generate electricity through seawater movement. Tidal currents there can reach a maximum intensity of 9 miles per hour, and sea waves often churn up to 10 feet in height. In storms, the waves can reach over 60 feet.
On the shore, wind turbines rise from the farmland that is stretched by farmers. The solar panels are dotted with the roofs of old houses with hundreds of years of history. The generated electricity is enough to provide 100% renewable energy for 10,000 residents on the island. . A cable from the Orkney Island grid carries electricity to the data center, and at full capacity it requires less than 250 kilowatts of electricity.
* Windmills are a special landscape in the Orkney Islands. Renewable energy technologies provide 100% electricity to 10,000 residents on the island. A cable from the Orkney grid also powers Microsoft's North Island data center near the coast. There, experimental tidal energy turbines and wave energy converters generate electricity through seawater movement. (Photo: Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)
Christian Belady, general manager of cloud infrastructure strategy and architecture at Microsoft’s Cloud Computing and Enterprise Business Unit, explained that Microsoft hopes that the data center can be self-sufficient in electricity, and that building the data center near marine renewable energy facilities is only the first of its vision. step.
He pointed out that energy self-sufficient data centers can be deployed anywhere in the data pipeline. For example, the data center can bring Azure cloud services to areas with power instability, and even if the grid fails, it no longer requires expensive backup generators to maintain network services.
Belady said: "Our vision is to be able to rapidly deploy computing capabilities anywhere on the planet based on the needs of our customers." He has long advocated research projects that combine data centers with energy generation to simplify and accelerate cloud computing infrastructure. The build.
The backbone of the Internet
The data center is the backbone of the Internet and is the physical cloud of cloud computing. Based on this, customers take full advantage of economies of scale to safely store and process data, train machine learning models, and run artificial intelligence algorithms.
As companies increasingly transfer their network and computing needs to the cloud, smart phones, robots, and other smart devices enter the lives of people. The demand for data center resources in the entire computing industry is exponentially increasing.
Cutler said: "The emergence of this exponential growth curve is precisely because the data center that we expect to build has not yet been built." He emphasized the importance of innovation in building data center competition, and data centers are quickly becoming the basis of the 21st century. The important part of the facility.
The concept of a submarine data center was first proposed in a white paper that Microsoft proposed to encourage employees to share innovative ideas with the “ThinkWeek” activity. It hopes that seawater cooling servers can be used to reduce energy consumption. Peter Lee's team is very interested in this. Launched in July 2014, Natick plans to complete the production of the concept prototype in just 12 months and complete the deployment in a calm, shallow water near California.
After 105 days of smooth operation on the sea floor, the prototype proved the feasibility of a submarine data center. The Natick project team was greatly encouraged to accelerate the design, manufacture and testing of full-size modules deployed in Scotland. Cutler said that the latest version will run for up to 5 years without maintenance.
*The Natick project's Northern Island Data Center was partially submerged and hoisted by a winch and crane between an industrial catamaran-style gantry barge. At the deployment site, a cable containing fiber and power lines was connected to the Microsoft data center, and then the data center and cables sank to a depth of 117 feet deep. (Photo: Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)
Data Center and Submarine Synergies
The first phase of the Natick project showed that the underwater data center concept was feasible; the second phase focused on studying whether the concept was feasible in terms of logistics, environment and economy.
At the beginning of the second phase, the Microsoft team knew that building such a submarine-like data center would require the help of outside experts. This is why Microsoft chose to cooperate with the 400-year-old Naval Group. The company leads the world in engineering, manufacturing and maintaining military ships and submarines as well as marine energy technologies.
The Microsoft team introduced the general specifications of the underwater data center to the Navy Group and let the company lead the design and manufacture of ships deployed in Scotland.
Eric Papin, senior vice president, chief technology officer and innovation director of the Navy Group, said: “At first glance, we think there is a big gap between data centers and submarines, but in fact they have a lot of commonality.”
He pointed out that submarines are essentially large-scale pressure vessels that provide complex data management and processing infrastructure for ship management and other systems that are integrated according to stringent requirements such as power, volume, weight, heat balance and cooling.
* At a naval base in Brest, France, engineers moved the Microsoft server rack and associated cooling infrastructure into the Natick project's North Island Data Center. The size of the data center is similar to the 40-foot ISO container on board, trains, and trucks. (Photo: Frank Betermin)
In fact, the Navy Group used a heat exchange process that is commonly used to cool submarines for underwater data centers. The system delivers seawater directly into the ocean through radiators behind the 12 server racks. The first phase of the Natick project found that the water from the data center was quickly mixed and dissipated in the surrounding water stream.
Spencer Fowers, senior technical staff member of Microsoft's special project research team, said that in order to maximize the use of the existing logistics supply chain for transportation, the data center is designed to be roughly the same size as containers used in ship, train and truck transport.
Once the data center was shut down and all systems checked in France, the team loaded the data center into an 18-wheel truck and sent it to the Orkney Islands (including the ferry). In Scotland, the ship is mounted on a triangular base filled with ballast weights and towed to sea for deployment on gantry barges.
Fowers said: "Like any new car, we will roughly check it and run the engine at different speeds to make sure everything is working. Then, once we are fully prepared, we will find one or two customers and let them begin. Deploy on our system."
*Spencer Fowers is a senior technical staff member of Microsoft's special project research team. He is preparing for the Natick project's North Island Data Center in Orkney, Scotland. The data center is fixed on a triangular base filled with ballast weights. (Photo: Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)
The Natick project team will monitor and record data center performance over the next 12 months, paying close attention to everything from power consumption, internal humidity to sound and temperature.
The deep sea waters of the world have always been very cold. They can provide people with free cooling methods that are available at any time. This is one of the biggest costs of a land data center. The underwater data center can also be used as a marine renewable energy — such as offshore wind farms or tidal turbines& mdash; the fixed tenant, so that the two industries simultaneously develop.
Currently, the Natick project is an applied research project that aims to determine the economic viability of operating a containerized subsea data center around a densely populated area, providing a more convenient, more economical, faster, and more environmentally friendly environment for this rapidly growing world of demand. Friendly cloud computing service.
Peter Lee said: "When you are studying a crazy idea, you may never achieve it. If you are willing to practice, you will already be awesome. Anyway, you will learn a lot, and you will take it on the road of exploration. Unexpected derivatives, regardless of the ultimate success of the marine data center, we can learn a lot from the research process.In this process we learned about disk failure, rack design, cooling system mechanical engineering and so on. It will help the establishment and operation of a conventional data center."