Microsoft upgrades data centers for cloud computing

Microsoft is initiating the fourth in a series of data center upgrades to enable its cloud computing services, according to a Microsoft blog post on Tuesday. And, like everything else in the software world, being highly modular is a good thing.


The Generation 4 Modular Data Center is described as "a highly modular, scalable, efficient, just-in-time data center capacity program that can be delivered anywhere in the world very quickly and cheaply."


The new data center configuration is seen as "the foundation of cloud data center infrastructure in the next five years," according to the blog, co-written by Michael Manos, Microsoft Data Center chief, Daniel Costello, director of Data Center research and engineering, and Christian Belady, principal power and cooling architect for Microsoft Data Center.


Manos said that the new plan is the most revolutionary change in data center configuration in the past 30 years. He even compares it to Henry Ford's introduction of production-line manufacturing in the first Model-T car factories.


Gen 4 centers will not be individually designed. Instead, they use a "commoditized manufacturing approach" that will utilize components built in various locations. The components can then be assembled on site.


A video on the blog's Web site depicts truckloads of modular units pulling into a prefabricated courtyard, which is roofless. The trucks leave behind their payloads of modular units stored in shipping containers. The modular units consist of servers, mechanical, electrical and security components.


The "building blocks" of Gen 4, including cement walls and modular components, are simply assembled on site according to capacity needs. This approach saves time and construction costs, and provides a level of scalability that traditional data centers do not have, according to the blog.


Gen 4 can be configured to accommodate noncritical applications. It enables a "stripped down, low-cost infrastructure with little or no redundancy and/or temperature control." This, according to Manos, may save 20 percent to 40 percent of capital expenditures in building a new data center.


Power loads can be moved from critical to noncritical uses as requirements dictate. Moreover, the new Gen 4 data centers will use less concrete, less copper and less water than traditional data centers, according to the blog.


Microsoft has been adding about 10,000 servers per month to its data centers, according to Debra Chrapaty, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Global Foundation Services. The buildouts will help serve up Microsoft's growing catalog of online offerings, according to Manos.


"At Microsoft, we are not a one trick pony and have many Online products and services (240+) that require different levels of operational support," Manos said in the blog. "We understand that and ensured that we addressed it in our design... ."


Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.

About the Author

Herb Torrens is a freelance writer based in Southern California.

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