In June 2018, a group of engineers from Microsoft gathered in the Orkney Islands in Scotland. They witnessed the official launch of a large data center codenamed “Northern Isles”, but there are still many questions about this technology. At the Microsoft Technology and Ecology Conference in Shanghai, Ben Cutler, Principal Project Manager at Microsoft Global Research, gave a public answer to all the questions that existed in the project.
Why set up a submarine data center?
In July 2014, a Microsoft employee opened his mind and put forward the idea of putting the data center on the seabed. In the case that most people think that this is impossible, the senior management of the institute did not ignore the employee. Instead, Put it on the agenda and complete the production of the concept prototype in the next 12 months.
After the prototype equipment was completed, they did not directly deploy it to the seabed environment. Instead, they chose to conduct deployment testing in a relatively calm shallow water area near California. In the next 105 days, the researchers found that the data center was not without problems. Instead, they run smoothly. At this conclusion, they begin the second phase of the test, mainly to test their potential for environmental, economic and logistics transportation.
Natick development team: senior research and development engineer Mike Shepperd, senior software engineer Sam Ogden, senior technician Spencer Fowers, researcher Eric Peterson and project manager Ben Cutler
From the outside, these data centers that will be deployed on the seabed are standard 12.2 meters long and 2.8 meters internal diameter metal cylinders that provide the same volume as a 40 foot ISO container. With 12 racks in this huge cylinder, it has 864 standard data center servers and up to 27.6PB of disk storage capacity. According to official information, it can be shipped from the factory to the final online work within 90 days, and it can continue to operate for five years without maintenance.
Does it have any benefit to live?
Now, our life is inseparable from the ubiquitous Internet, and the data center is one of the most important components, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, Alibaba Cloud and Tencent Cloud. Cloud computing is based on data centers distributed around the world.
Not only is cloud computing platform, but it is also artificial intelligence technology based on artificial intelligence techniques require machine learning models and other data are stored in a data center, we use Paypal, micro-channel payment and other transaction data as well as Taobao, Jingdong network The transaction records are recorded by the data centers. And the rapid development of IoT devices such as smartphones and smart homes has led to an exponential increase in demand for data centers in the computing industry. The number of data centers is currently insufficient to meet user demand.
At present, more than half of the world’s population lives in areas within 193 km of the coast. The reason why data centers are deployed near coastal cities is mainly to reduce the distance between data centers and users so that they can be coastal. Residents bring a better network experience and can effectively alleviate the need for cloud computing infrastructure to increase efficiency in populated areas.
Data center fixed on the pedestal
It is envisaged that the submarine data center adopts a modular design, and each part is customized according to the requirements for rapid deployment, which not only can effectively reduce the cost of the data center at the time of construction, but also finds that it is insufficient in the later stage. If the calculation needs are met, the increase can be made in time.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said that Project Natick is a very exploratory project, and its success can not only make important contributions to Microsoft’s core business but even bring changes to the entire computing industry.
A data center built with submarine technology
The submarine is a large pressure-resistant container with various infrastructures such as data management systems for ship management installed. These systems need to meet the strict requirements of the submarine for power, volume, weight, heat balance, and cooling. The data center on the seabed has great similarities with submarines in many respects due to its particularity.
In order to ensure that the submarine data center can operate stably for a long time, Microsoft has cooperated with the French Naval Group to apply its industrial design and manufacturing maintenance technologies in the fields of warships and submarines to the construction of its own submarine data center.
The data center is a large heat consumer. In order to ensure that it can effectively dissipate heat on the seabed, Naval Group has modified the heat exchange system for submarine cooling to ensure it can be applied to submarine data centers.
This cooling system mainly uses pipes to directly flow seawater through the heat sink on the back of the server rack and is discharged back to the sea while heating. The hot water discharged from the data center due to the larger specific heat capacity of the sea water and faster liquidity. It can be quickly cooled and cooled with the surrounding seawater. Repeatedly, it can effectively reduce the temperature of the data center.
Northern Isles data center in assembly
After the data center bolts were sealed and all systems were thoroughly inspected and tested at a factory in France, the team loaded them into the back of an 18-wheel truck and transported it to the Orkney Islands. There, it will be installed on a triangular pedestal filled with ballast weights and slowly sinking into the rocky seabed below 117 feet. After that, the submarine cable that has been laid ahead will be associated with it. Connect to achieve data interaction with the land operations center.