Microsoft deploys an underwater submarine-like data centre to boost internet speeds

Microsoft has deployed a submarine-like data centre into the waters off the coast of Orkney, a group of islands located off Scotland.

The tech giant said Wednesday that it had sunk the 40-foot-long vessel from the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), a research base focused on wave and tidal power.

The aim is to improve internet speeds in areas that are close to the water, where infrastructure is often lacking. Things like video streaming and gaming, in particular, rely on stronger processing infrastructure to connect to the internet.

“Almost half of the world’s population lives near large bodies of water,” Cindy Rose, Microsoft’s U.K. chief executive, said in a blog post Wednesday. “Having data centres closer to billions of people using the internet will ensure faster and smoother web browsing, video streaming and gaming, while businesses can enjoy AI (artificial intelligence)-driven technologies.

The underwater data centre was built by Microsoft’s Natick, a project dedicated to making such environmentally-friendly facilities.

Microsoft has been working on underwater data centres for a number of years. It launched a prototype in California back in 2015.

The company’s latest unit contains 12 racks of computers with a total of 864 servers. It will be powered by an underwater cable linked back to the EMEC in Orkney. Microsoft said it uses under a quarter of a megawatt when operating at full capacity.

The tech giant said the unit can hold data and process information for up to five years without maintenance.

The Orkney Islands are known for research and development of renewables. According to Microsoft, the archipelago has produced more renewable energy than it needs since 2012.


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