Inside Windows Azure's data center, one of world's largest

CNet was able to get an exclusive look inside one of the largest data centers in the world, owned by Microsoft to help power cloud-computing with Windows Azure. The secret location of the data center, located somewhere in Chicago, is not your ordinary data center setup, they're in shipping containers.

The new data centers are brought in by shipping containers, housing anywhere between 1,800 and 2,500 servers each. Once the shipping containers arrive, the team can install each of the server groups in under a day, where it would normally take months to setup and install servers. The servers remain inside the shipping containers inside the facility, where they are placed side by side and stacked two high.

The new water cooled facility, which runs 7.5 miles of piping, is roughly 700,000 square feet, where each shipping container occupies roughly 12,000 square feet each and consumes three megawatts of power, on average.


(Image courtesy of CNet.com)

The general manager of infrastructure services for Microsoft's data center operations, Arne Josefsber said, "I think, I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think this could be the largest data center in the world."

Microsoft plans to talk about the commercial launch of Windows Azure at this year's Professional Developers Conference (PDC), in Los Angeles, where Neowin will be reporting live.

View: CNet.com data center gallery

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41 Comments

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I agree that this must be incorrect. A box 10ft x 10ft x 50ft is only 5,000 cubic feet in volume. I assume they meant cubic feet, since 12k square feet would be obscenely large. Either way, its still wrong.

Edit: er, unless the shipping containers are really long. Haha. If they were 12ft high, 10ft wide, and 100ft long they would be 12k cubic feet. They look pretty long in the picture, but 100ft??

Wow, that's massive. The concept isn't really new though. I've read about it a few times in the past. Didn't Google just patent something with this too?

Soldiers33 said,
I dnt really see the point of this, i would still prefer a desktop pc rather than having my stuff hosted on ms servers


If you're trying to compare a desktop PC to this, then I totally agree, you're not seeing the point.

Here is the map - http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=no...sa=N&tab=wl

The building is right on 294 next to the building that has Duke on top. The satellite picture still shows it as a lot under costruction, so at least we have an idea how slow Google is at udating maps as this building has been finished for about 2 months. Its on Northwest Ave, just south of Grand Ave. Anyone who lives in Northlake could easily find it. However the building itself os not marked as being owned by MSFT...But I am sure it is on the door.

Google only updates there maps every few years, in the same area.
If you are talking about streetview, expect them to update every 3-5 years.
I also think the satelite view only updates every 2 years or longer, again, in certain areas.

THe datacenter is in NorthLake IL. I am not sure where, but I do know most large building like this sit of I-294...Northlake is just south of O'Hare Field near North Ave. There ois a string on new building along 294...the rest of NorthLake is residential and I doubt they would want a building this large near residences.

The container thing has been done before with portable data centers, its the fact that they seriously packed those things with servers and are stacking them up. But Man that is one big *** cooling system.

Can anybody tell what kind of servers those are? They are probably white boxes.

Grex said,
The container thing has been done before with portable data centers, its the fact that they seriously packed those things with servers and are stacking them up. But Man that is one big *** cooling system.

Can anybody tell what kind of servers those are? They are probably white boxes.

More then likely some fancy custom systems from HP tailored for Microsoft. or a mix up of some anyway. As for SAN and routers and networking i imagine all different.

3 megawatts is not that much. A decent pick-up truck puts about 150 kW at the shaft, so 1 MW is about 6 pick-up trucks. If you take into account the engine efficiency of about 20%, 1 MW is about the amount of power the burning gasoline gives off in a truck.

Max1978 said,
3 megawatts is not that much. A decent pick-up truck puts about 150 kW at the shaft, so 1 MW is about 6 pick-up trucks. If you take into account the engine efficiency of about 20%, 1 MW is about the amount of power the burning gasoline gives off in a truck.

In desktop computer terms it's 3,000 high end desktop computers with full load on 1Kw power supplies. why it seems big..

But it's per container! there are 8 in the picture (so that would be 24 megawatts) and we don't know how many more they have in there. Whatever way you look at it, it needs some serious power to keep it running.

damn ,

i guess MS should build their own Power plant , with this huge power consume :P

wander what kind of spec a single server has?

Andrew Lyle said,
They said they will be keeping the server info top secret, not exactly sure why, but they just are...

Maybe because they're running PS3 clusters inside those containers...

GreenMartian said,
Maybe because they're running PS3 clusters inside those containers...

That would explain the power draw.

Well, I'm hoping they have solar panels on the roof or something. With 700,000 square feet, it would generate a good bit of power. Probably not enough, but it would put a dent in it at least...

with a small wind turbine powering the whole lots - not enough money for a UPS, we spent it all on the containers, but don't they look pretty?

Mr Spoon said,
WOW - 3 megawatts!

That's three i tell you!

Per-container you add that up to around a dozen or so of them :S makes X2 graphics cards seem light lol

Eh, not really a new concept sun's been doing containers like that for some time now i believe... yeah ok maybe large but definitely no boeing complex size.

I can't really see "azure" exactly offering more or any incentive over existing and developing solutions...this could quickly become a large headache for Microsoft if that's all this is intended for

I think it's way to soon to say that. The fact Azure lets you build your own services and even make and run your own Azure datacenter if you want, means it's got lots of potential IMO.

MS just has to nail down the right pricing for the services.

GP007 said,
I think it's way to soon to say that. The fact Azure lets you build your own services and even make and run your own Azure datacenter if you want, means it's got lots of potential IMO.

MS just has to nail down the right pricing for the services.

Yeah but should they not if they're going to offer those sort of features to capitalize give people actual choice of running azure in their own data center/servers then .. i mean don't get me wrong cloud stuff is all fine and dandy but choice and flexibility is much better too. I mean obviously no average web developer is going to hire/rent/lease a whole container those companies who could probably have their own better solutions which can already provide cloud services with right environment. It would make more sense especially for international business who don't want all their critical cloud data stored only in middle of chicago.

I played around with the Azure technical preview for a little while. It's pretty neat.

@Digix: There are(will be) more than one center. You can even specify the center or centers you want your applications hosted on.

I think they do allow you to run it on your own data centers as well. That's what I remember from the first keynote about it at the last PDC iirc. Enterprises will have that option unless they've said otherwise.

The secret location of the data center, located somewhere in Chicago

I'm sure someone can pinpoint the location of this building:

Jedimark said,
I'm sure someone can pinpoint the location of this building:

I'll put good money it's at the Savvis datacenter building near O'Hare, nearly every major company leases out sections (Google has an entire area devoted to them). I was probably the only person who didn't make a trip there for my company (who hosted their servers there as well) so can't confirm. But they've got the power and bandwidth requirements....