The island itself runs exclusively on renewable power generated by its own wind turbines and residential solar panels, and is also a sizeable testbed for tidal energy generation. Consider that compared to the many months or even years it takes to approve and develop an on-land data center and you can see why this is attractive.
United States tech giant Microsoft has submerged a data center off the Orkney archipelago in northern Scotland in a project to save on the energy used to cool the servers on land, the firm said on Wednesday, June 6.
"Project Natick reflects Microsoft's ongoing quest for cloud data center solutions that offer less resource-intensive options, rapid provisioning, lower costs, and high agility in meeting customer needs", Microsoft said.
The second part of Project Natick focuses on determining whether subsea data centres are logistically, environmentally and economically practical. These data center can deliver quick cloud services to coastal cities.
"And by deploying in the water we benefit from ready access to cooling - reducing the requirement for energy for cooling by up to 95%". Cooling costs account for a significant proportion of the total cost of running traditional data centers, but the undersea data center will be cooled by the seawater that surrounds it.
Currently, Project Natick sits on sea bottom owned by the Scottish government, but the data center is designed so it can be delivered where it's most wanted. That's because having servers near your computer reduces latency, defined as the time it takes data to travel between its source and destination.
Orkney is now a major renewable energy research centre, something the country strongly supports.
One way to do this is by placing them underwater near coasts, according to Microsoft, as more than half of the world's population live within 120 miles of a shoreline.
'We know if we can put something in here and it survives, we are good for just about any place we want to go, ' said Ben Cutler, a project manager in the special projects group within Microsoft's research organization that leads the Project Natick team. It will be powered by an underwater cable linked back to the EMEC in Orkney. One of the more interesting possibilities it is now exploring is the use of a self-sustaining undersea data centre, which could simply be dropped on the ocean floor near a population centre.