Partly cloudy
14 °C
Seattle, Washington
Partly cloudy

Tue Aug 20 2019
none

A COOL OLD SOLUTION TO A 21ST CENTURY PROBLEM

07-06-2018
by 
in 

Regardless of where you were born, chances are that your youth was punctuated with vacations by the sea and the odd cooling dip in the ocean. Admittedly for those of us from cooler northern climes, these were probably limited to the one month a year that might approximate to summer, but the idea is the same the world over.

So it is perhaps surprising that we have taken quite so long to exploit the cooling ability of the sea to solve a very real problem that is only becoming more severe with time… big data.

The problem, of course, is that the more data you have, the more computing power is required, and the more heat is generated. Today’s data centres use a lot of electricity – and anything up to a third of it is being used to cool the electronics.

So I was intrigued to hear that Microsoft has “taken the plunge” and sunk an experimental data centre in the sea just off the coast of the Orkney Isles in the north of Scotland.

While that location may make a mockery of my introduction (on the grounds that a cooling dip would almost certainly lead to hypothermia), in terms of cooling potential it has a lot to offer. And to make it even more appealing, the area has a surfeit of renewable energy – mostly from wind turbines but also wave and tidal.

The data centre itself is sealed in a cylindrical structure, which has been virtually purged of oxygen and moisture, thereby minimising any chance of corrosion damage. The only downside to this is that being unmanned, there is no chance of any hardware fault being fixed.

The theory is that the passive cooling from the mass of water will be sufficient to keep the computers running reliably for a five-year period, after which the tube will be raised for maintenance.

Incredibly, environmentalists have raised concerns about rising sea temperatures. And Microsoft has admitted that there might indeed be a rise of one or two thousandths of a degree in the locality.

I can assure you, that is nowhere near enough to encourage me to put even a toe in the water!

Related news & editorials

  1. 16.08.2019
    16.08.2019
    by      In
    Over the past few days I’ve been looking at some of the good work done by the manufacturing community in supporting charitable initiatives, both at home and abroad. Many of the stories are deeply heart-warming, and we will be sharing them in the Community section of the magazine in the coming... Read More
  2. 19.06.2019
    19.06.2019
    by      In
    I must admit that I’m not a massive fan of Australian politics in particular or in any kind of two-party system. And populist election victories around the world in recent years suggest that I am not alone in this sentiment.
    One inevitable problem of the duopoly appears to be the continual fighting... Read More
  3. 18.04.2019
    18.04.2019
    by      In
    Kermit the Frog may have famously said (and sang) that it isn’t easy being green. However, it seems that in 2019 Australia green may well be the new black.
    Politicians of all shades seem to have finally appreciated that the Australian public really does care about the environment, with climate... Read More
  4. 11.04.2019
    11.04.2019
    by      In
    It wasn’t until we decided to expand Industry Update’s coverage of security matters, and in particular cybersecurity, I didn’t realise quite how scary this business is. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the only hope is to close down the Internet altogether and go back to pen and paper.... Read More