Posted By Rich Miller On April 5, 2007 @ 8:37 am In Microsoft | Comments Disabled
“The natural tendency is towards building a small number of very large data centers and this is where some of the non-technical issues come to play. These include social and political constraints on data center location, in addition to taxation and economic factors. All diminish the appeal of the large, central data center model. … The proposed solution is to no longer build and ship single systems or even racks of systems. Instead, we ship macro-modules consisting of a thousand or more systems. Each module is built in a 20-foot standard shipping container, configured, and burned in, and is delivered as a fully operational module with full power and networking in a ready to run no-service-required package. All that needs to be done upon delivery is provide power, networking, and chilled water.”That’s not necessarily a trivial matter, as data center operators have noted in discussions about Sun’s Blackbox. But incorporating liquid cooling into high-density racks can address cooling challenges, and Hamilton argues that removing support personnel from the data centers will improve reliability, noting that “human administrative error causes 20% to 50% of system outages.” Modules can be equipped with enough redundancy that “as parts fail, surviving nodes continue to support the load. … In this modified model, the constituent components are never serviced and the entire module just slowly degrades over time as more and more systems suffer non-recoverable hardware errors. Even with 50 unrecoverable hardware failures, a 1,000 system module is still operating with 95% of its original design capacity.” Using containers would make it easier to save money by relocating infrastructure to chase cheaper bandwidth and power, Hamilton notes.
A central building is still needed to house security, power, networking, and cooling equipment. But the containers can safely be stored outside. The only requirement is a secured, fenced, paved area to place the containers around the central facilities building. … The fixed assets are just a central services building and a fenced compound rather than a $150M facility that must be sold or dismantled.If Microsoft were to pursue a modular data center initiative, it would likely be good news for one of the hardware providers rolling out portable products. Microsoft is already a significant customer for Rackable. Hamilton’s proposal discusses a 20-foot container, while Rackable’s Concerto is housed in a 40-foot long trailer. But Hamilton notes that “their design scales down well so they are able to supply populated 20 foot units as well.” LiveSide , a leading news site that tracks Microsoft’s Live initiatives, is taking the proposal seriously.
The idea of using commercial shipping containers to build high-scale datacenters seems rather unusual, however those working on the Ozzie team are the ideal candidates to innovatively solve these kinds of complex problems. The need for datacenters was highlighted by Ozzie in an interview early last year with Fortune, where he said that Microsoft must build a global network of server farms that will cost “staggering” amounts of money. For those who are saying that “Live is dead” this should serve as a reminder that Microsoft are investing heavily in online services and are serious about their future in this sector.
Article printed from Data Center Knowledge: http://www.datacenterknowledge.com
URL to article: http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2007/04/05/microsoft-mulling-portable-data-centers/
URLs in this post:
 Project Blackbox: http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2006/Oct/17/sun_unveils_data_center_in_a_box.html
 Concerto: http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2007/Mar/30/rackable_selling_portable_data_center.html
 James Hamilton: http://research.microsoft.com/~jamesrh/
 PowerPoint: http://research.microsoft.com/~jamesrh/TalksAndPapers/JamesRH_Amazon.ppt
 Word: http://research.microsoft.com/~jamesrh/TalksAndPapers/JamesRH_CIDR.doc
 Mary Jo Foley: http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=349
 Greg Linden: http://glinden.blogspot.com/2007/03/more-on-data-center-in-trailer.html
 LiveSide: http://liveside.net/blogs/main/archive/2007/03/25/windows-live-core.aspx
 Rich Miller: http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/author/richm/
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