PCWorld reports on a Container presentation by Microsoft's Daniel Costello, Director of data center research at GigaOm's Structure 08.
"The idea of modular, portable data centers is key to the industry's future," said Daniel Costello, Microsoft director of data center research, in a presentation at GigaOM's Structure 08 conference in San Francisco. "That's why I'm here to talk about data centers, not just for Microsoft but for our customers as well."
Buying these boxes from server vendors can be more energy-efficient and cost-effective than building a new, traditional data center, he said, and Microsoft sees them as more than just a way to add extra computing capacity at short notice. "We see them as a primary packaging unit," he said.
Using shipping containers is part of an effort by Microsoft to radically rethink its data centers, as it tries to add more computing capacity in a way that is cost effective and power efficient. "At Microsoft, we're questioning every component in the data center, up to and including the roof," Costello said. That includes "eliminating concrete from our data center bills."
"The definition of a datacenter has changed. It's not just bricks and mortar any more, and moving forward, we think it can be a lot more energy efficient," he said.
But vendors building portable data centers today are filling them with equipment that was designed for traditional data centers. "Moving forward, we need to design systems specifically for this form factor. If we look at the containers, that form factor will change over time as well."
Daniel covers the efficiencies in PUE.
They can offer a better "power unit efficiency" ratio than do traditional data centers, he said. PUE is a measure of a data center's power efficiency. If a server demands 500 watts and the PUE of a data center is 3.0, the power from the grid needed to run the server will be 1500 watts, according to a definition from the Green Grid industry consortium.
"We've seen PUE at a peak of 1.3" in modular data centers, Costello said, compared with between 1.6 and 2.0 for a traditional data center.
The containers can accommodate 1,000 watts per square foot, allowing companies to power a lot more servers in a given area, he said. Many companies are unable to add more equipment to their data centers because power supplies and cooling equipment are at maximum capacity. The portable data centers are an alternative to building new facilities or extending old ones.
And, the portable data center.
But he thinks portable data centers will be deployed widely to provide services to end users. "We used to talk about a PC on every desk," he said. "But how about a data center in every town?"
Which reminds me of a conversation when I was talking to Christian Belady at a Uptime Institute event. Christian said he thinks power for data center is becoming scare. I told him I think what will happen in the future is Microsoft guys will drive around in a town looking for what buildings/businesses have power infrastructure in place. Buy those buildings with good power and networking infrastructure, level the building and put a container data center in the space in months.