Microsoft Details Efficient Data Center Designs

Microsoft outlines some of the ways it plans to lower energy consumption at its burgeoning mega data centers.


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In a new whitepaper, Microsoft presents energy management lessons it has learned from the company's deployment of massive data centers around the world -- lessons that proved useful to other firms' data center designers and IT engineers.

For instance, one bottom-line realization from the report is that some important changes that may seem not seem intuitive can save money and help the environment.

"Examples of non-intuitive changes made to the [test] site, which proved effective in reducing PUE [Power Usage Effectiveness], were cleaning the roof and painting it white, and repositioning concrete walls around the externally-mounted air conditioning units to improve air flow," the paper said, adding that those changes and others improved PUE by 25 percent over two years.

Titled "A Holistic Approach to Energy Efficiency in Datacenters," the paper was written by Dileep Bhandarkar, a distinguished engineer in Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Global Foundation Services group.

"Global Foundation Services (GFS) is the engine that powers Microsoft's Software Plus Services strategy, hosting more than 200 of the company’s online services and web portals," the group's site online says.

The company has been busy the past several years rolling out massive, power-hungry data centers around the world to support its expanding cloud computing initiative. It has recently garnered a lot of press by deploying mammoth data centers constructed modularly using shipping containers pre-configured with servers, communications and support infrastructure such as various cooling systems, as well as power.

Its Chicago data center, which went online last summer, for example, has some 700,000 square feet of space.

An important lesson for Microsoft was that the ISO standard containers the company had been using were not as energy efficient as its own smaller design.

"Our discussions with server manufacturers have convinced us that we can widen the operating range of our servers and use free air cooling most of the time. Our own IT Pre-Assembled Component (ITPAC) design has led us to a new approach for our future data centers," the whitepaper said.

Another lesson is that evaporative (water) cooling works best in climates where the air temperature is high and the humidity is low.

In the case of Microsoft's giant data center in the Chicago area, Microsoft was able to lower its PUE rating from its global average of 1.6 down to 1.2.

"Our goal was to maximize the amount of compute capability per container at the lowest cost," Bhandarkar said in an accompanying post to the MS Datacenters blog Monday.

"We have eliminated unnecessary components, used higher efficiency power supplies and voltage converters and bounded the expandability of server platforms to achieve significant power savings. We remain very much focused on performance per dollar, per watt as an additional means of achieving higher energy efficiency," the whitepaper said.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

Tags: cloud computing, Microsoft, data storage management, data center, ISO

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