What Microsoft is doing under the Sea?

Microsoft is working on the milestone project named Natick. It’s a research project to build an underwater datacenter. Microsoft is looking forward to various benefits that a deployable undersea datacenter could provide to cloud users all over the world. I hope Microsoft would get success in such projects and will serve the whole world in a better way.

Engineer sliding racks of Microsoft Servers into Project Natick’s in France.

Project Natick – Main Highlights 

1. A deep water data centre.
2. Natick is a code name and having no special meaning. It is a town in Massachusetts.
3. Project Natick launched in 2014.
4. First prototype deployed in August 2015 & retrieved after 105 days.
5. The data centre contains 864 servers and 12 racks.
6. It is assembled and tested in France.

Project Details

Project Natick reflects an ongoing quest for cloud datacenter that offers less resource-intensive options, rapid provisioning, lower costs, and high agility, hence Microsoft tests a data centre under the sea that’s quick to deploy, could provide internet connectivity for years.

Phase 1 of the Project Natick showed the underwater datacenter concept is feasible. It was operated on the seafloor approximately one kilometre off the Pacific coast of the United States from August to November of 2015.

Phase 2 of the Natick aims to demonstrate that we can economically manufacture full-scale undersea datacenter modules and deploys them in under 90 days from the decision to power on. The Phase 2 vessel was deployed at the European Marine Energy Centre located in the Orkney Islands, Scotland (north coast of Great Britain) in June of 2018.

Project Natick’s 40-foot long “Northern Isles datacenter” is loaded with 12 racks containing a total of 864 servers along with cooling system infrastructure. The data centre was assembled and tested in France and shipped on a flatbed truck to Scotland (north coast of Great Britain) where it was attached to a ballast-filled triangular base for deployment on the seabed.

At the deployment site, a remotely operated vehicle retrieved a cable containing the fibre optic and power wiring from the seafloor and brought it to the surface where it was checked and attached to the data centre, and the data centre powered on.

Spencer Fowers preparing Project Natick’s for deployment at the coast of the Orkney Islands in Scotland (north coast of Great Britain).

Benefits of Project Natick:

1) Rapid response to market demand can now be possible. Able to deploy a data centre at scale from start to finish in no more than 90 days.

2) Reducing Latency: Latency is how long the data takes to travel between its source and destination. Half of the world’s population lives within 200 km of the ocean, so placing data centres at the sea increases the nearness of the datacenter to the population, finally reducing latency and providing better responsiveness.

3) The datacentres located at the sea along with renewable energy sources could be completely zero-emission i.e., no waste products due to the power generation or computers.

4) Natick datacenters are envisioned to be fully recycled. Made from recycled material which in turn is recycled at the end of life of the datacenter.

5) It is seen as an opportunity to field long-lived, resilient datacenters that operate “lights out” – nobody on-site – with very high reliability for the entire life of the deployment, possibly as long as ten years.

Finally how Natick detects a failure without human intervention?

Natick uses AI to monitor the servers and other equipment for signs of failure. Because Natick operates like a standard land datacenter, the computers inside Natick can be used for machine learning to provide artificial intelligence to other applications just as in any other Microsoft datacenter.

Thanks a ton for reading my above blog. If you have any comments, suggestions or feedbacks please spare a second to post it.

Ajey Kumar Gupta
(Microsoft Exchange Admin)

Next Blog: Difference between Labels & Retention Policies.

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