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Computing

Microsoft’s throwing its servers in the sea to keep them cool

The tech giant has just submerged a bunch of machines off the coast of Scotland.

The news: The BBC reports that Microsoft has encased a tiny data center with 12 racks of servers in a cylinder that’ll sit on the ocean floor for up to five years. The idea is to use the sea as a natural coolant, helping to reduce the energy needed to run the center.

Sunk cost: An undersea cable will bring power to the servers and ship data back to shore. But if anything goes wrong with a machine, it can’t be replaced—the cost of hauling the cylinder up is simply too great.

Ocean’s Five: Microsoft has run multiple experiments like this, including one off the US Pacific coast, but this is the most ambitious to date. The firm hopes to sink groups of five cylinders together to create a data center in under 90 days—way less time than it would take to build on land with the cooling systems required there.

Why this matters: Computers in data centers get really hot, so finding alternatives to conventional cooling systems can save money and reduce a company’s carbon footprint. In addition to sinking servers, companies are putting them in mines and outdoors in vats of cooling oil.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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