Microsoft Gets More Time to Work on its 4th Generation Data Center

Microsoft’s Mike Manos and Arne Josefsberg blog about their delay on Microsoft’s 4th Generation Data Center.

Building a Better Mousetrap a.k.a. Optimizing for Maximum Efficiency in an Economic Downturn

By Arne Josefsberg and Mike Manos, January 23, 2009

As you might have read in Microsoft’s Q2 FY09 earnings release yesterday, the company has announced cost management initiatives due to the global economic downturn. And with the earnings release back in October, Microsoft announced a reduction of projected capital expenditures by $300 million to our data centers. You might be thinking that the data center team is pulling our hair out trying to figure out how to meet our goals given the new constraints. After all, we need to continue supporting a growing base of more than 400 million Hotmail users and over a billion Live Search queries each day, plus 250 other services for Microsoft, including a fast-growing online services business for enterprise companies and the new Azure platform that software developers are beginning to use to create new services.
But we’ve been preparing for lean times for a while. This recession is the ideal backdrop to implement small changes that target big needs. Frugality drives innovation, and limited resources are just another forcing function to develop creative solutions to infrastructure needs. For our industry, this means more reasons to identify the small tweaks to products or operational approaches that can unlock big opportunities.

This slow down reminds of the opportunity I heard that Boeing’s IT Department was able to use the time the Machinists were on strike to perform maintenance and purchase upgrades they didn’t have time to do when they were in production.

The construction companies and the employees may not feel good about the delay in Microsoft’s and Google’s data center construction.  But, the delay is good use of resources, and allows each company to spend more time in design. 

As David Gauthier and Christian Belady have said their goal in the 4th generation data center is to change the costs for data center construction.

While we expect these modular innovations to reduce capital investments by 20%-40% or more depending on class, we also expect considerable reductions in operating expenses related to electricity and water consumption. Designing from the start for environmental sustainability has allowed us to focus on using less construction material up front, less energy and water during operation, and also allows us to recycle and reuse components at the end of their useful life. No longer will we be governed by the initial decisions made when constructing the facility. We will have almost unlimited use and re-use of the facility and site. We will also be able to use power in an ultra-fluid fashion moving load from critical to non-critical as use and capacity requirements dictate.