News.com has an article on Microsoft’s Container Data Centers.
Microsoft's data centers growing by the truckload
Posted by Ina Fried
Once upon a time, Microsoft used to fill its data centers one server at a time. Then it bought them by the rack. Now it's preparing to load up servers by the shipping container.
Starting with a Chicago-area facility due to open later this year, Microsoft will use an approach in which servers arrive at the data center in a sealed container, already networked together and ready to go. The container itself is then hooked up to power, networking and air conditioning.
"The trucks back'em in, rack'em and stack'em," Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie told CNET News. And the containers remain sealed, Ozzie said. Once a certain number of servers in the container have failed, it will be pulled out and sent back to the manufacturer and a new container loaded in.
It's just one way that Microsoft is trying to cope in a world where it adds roughly 10,000 servers a month.
As much talk as there is about the containers, a part we do not know is what is in the containers. Here are hints Microsoft is pushing for higher efficiency server hardware.
Gone are the days in which Microsoft settled for off-the-shelf hardware to fill its server farms. These days, Microsoft is looking for servers designed to its exact needs. It's not just that Microsoft doesn't want servers that have keyboard or USB ports--it wants motherboards that don't even have the added wiring necessary to support those things that it will never use. Such moves eliminate cost, space and power consumption.
"We are not physically building our servers, but there is very deep engagement (with the computer makers)," Josefsberg said.
Even a 1 percent or 2 percent reduction in power consumption makes a big difference, Josefsberg said. As it is, Microsoft is trying to cram a whole lot of gear in a small space. While server racks at a Web hosting facility might have power densities of 70 watts to 100 Watts per square foot, things are packed far more tightly in the containers, which might be consuming in the thousands of watts of power per square foot.
Watch for the Server OEMs making noise about new server skus. I wrote about how Microsoft is influencing the industry with its purchasing power.
Given the purchasing by Microsoft's data center properties (search, hotmail, maps,etc.) are now driving Server OEMs with custom RFPs like the CBlox RFP, OEMs are building exactly what Microsoft wants to run a more efficient data center. And, versus Google's model of requiring exclusive designs no one else in the industry can purchase, the Microsoft skus spill into the rest of the market.
People can argue the benefits of containers, but listening to Mike Manos and Christian Belady, part of what the containers give Microsoft is a method to determine the compute per watt efficiency for what is in the container.