Above us only sky... Microsoft tells us about its roofless datacenters

Cloud computing requires a lot of compute power. Microsoft has been continuously expanding their datacenter footprints, as evidenced by their recent expansion into mainland China. However building a new datacenter is an extremely expensive proposition, so companies have been looking for ways to increase density while decreasing cost.

During a discussion on Microsoft datacenter management here at TechEd, Jamal Malik, a Business Solution Architect with Microsoft's Datacenter and Private Cloud division, spoke about the challenges and changes of new datacenters. Although the company has been building datacenters since 1989, the process now is completely different than it was 25 years ago. Instead of building servers in cases, for example, the company uses "skinless" servers - machines that consist only of the motherboard, CPU, storage, networking, and memory - and all of the components are soldered directly onto the motherboard. In addition, there is no redundancy for individual machines; instead, the thousands of servers act as redundancy for themselves.

Perhaps even more surprising though, is how Microsoft is building these new datacenters. Instead of designing and fabricating a new building to house the machines, the servers are instead put into pods and wheeled onto a parking lot or other similar perimeter. A wall is put up to surround these pods, and the compute power is added to the grid of datacenters in the world. The company doesn't even build a roof over the pods, instead relying on the pod itself to protect the equipment. A process that used to take months or even years now takes weeks.

The main key to this new process requires four main principles that must be followed:

  • Extreme Standardization of both the hardware and software layers
  • SLA-Driven architecture where workloads are resilient at the application layer, not the physical layer
  • Process maturity, including automation and rigid change control
  • Delegation and control, driving out the human element and allowing customers to self-serve

While not exactly cutting edge news, it's certainly interesting to hear how Microsoft is supporting their world-wide cloud offerings like Azure, Xbox Live, and Outlook.com.

Image courtesy of GCN.com

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Confirmed: Outlook 2013 RT will be a desktop app

Next Story

Spotted: Boot to desktop for Windows 8.1 settings pane

18 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

"SLA-Driven architecture where workloads are resilient at the application layer, not the physical layer"

:-|

This is really quite interesting. While other companies are spending billions building data centers, Microsoft can move theirs wherever they want. LOL

They will probs have rods to attract lightning around the walls, Lightning will hit whatever is most conductive around it normally, so if they have a few poles with a weak current around the walls then lightning would just hit them every time.

Fairly cool though, what i want to know is the whole weathering effect, show, ice, water..

Example: Summer, Glass gets a few cracks under heat.
Autumn: falling stuff makes further marks and cracks.
Winter: Everything freezes after getting wet, cracks get larger as time goes on.
Spring/summer: Plantation starts to grow under the complex. Roots start to make ground uneven and pavement crack.

How would this general weathering and time effect be combated? If you are allowing the elements and cold into the room, then the effects above will happen right?

MrAnalysis said,
They will probs have rods to attract lightning around the walls, Lightning will hit whatever is most conductive around it normally, so if they have a few poles with a weak current around the walls then lightning would just hit them every time.

Fairly cool though, what i want to know is the whole weathering effect, show, ice, water..

Example: Summer, Glass gets a few cracks under heat.
Autumn: falling stuff makes further marks and cracks.
Winter: Everything freezes after getting wet, cracks get larger as time goes on.
Spring/summer: Plantation starts to grow under the complex. Roots start to make ground uneven and pavement crack.

How would this general weathering and time effect be combated? If you are allowing the elements and cold into the room, then the effects above will happen right?

Not if they use special glass such as heat proof, unbreakable glass... which cost expensive. Some homes do have those due the storms as long as you can afford to get them installed.

About the winter, maybe it won't hurt since the machines are running warm. Maybe they have insulation installed in their server racks with cooling/heating system.

The plantation can be taken care of as long as the landscape crews are there to keep everything in good shape.

Yeah there was an interesting article here years ago about HP or dell offering servers in a shipping container, you get the container dropped off and that's what they stay in.

[quote=Tha Bloo Monkee said,]


Yes, but how? How does a roofless pod protect from, say, rain? Or is it just the space the pods are at that is roofless, and the pods are closed?

I think I need a visual...

[quote=Xabier Granja said,]

POD's have roofs. Otherwise it would defeat the purpose of using them at all, as all of your content would be exposed to the elements... At that point you might as well just leave everything on the curb.