More Details on Microsoft’s Chicago Project

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Microsoft (MSFT) has confirmed its plans for a major data center in Northlake, Illinois, which trickled out through the real estate industry earlier this week. Microsoft senior director of data center services Michael Manos said the project will set a new standard for the company’s data centers. Manos told the Sun-Times that the Northlake site, which is 14 miles from Chicago, was chosen for its excellent fiber connectivity.

He also said climate was a factor, indicating that Microsoft plans to use free cooling techniques that use outside air temperatures to improve the efficiency of the facility’s cooling systems. Free cooling can save power by reducing usage of compressors in chilling systems.


There are some discrepancies about the size of the facility. The Sun-Times reports that it will be a 550,000 square foot data center, which is about the same size as the announced plans for Microsoft’s new data center in Dublin. That would mean Microsoft has slightly increased the size of its facilities, as the data centers in Quincy, Wash. and San Antonio have 470,000 square foot footprints for their first phase.

But the web site and marketing materials for the Northlake Data Center list the size as 430,000 square feet. The project is a greenfield (ground-up) build, as can be seen from the live webcam of the construction site, meaning the design can be tweaked to accommodate the additional space.

According to the spec sheet, the facility has a 40 megawatt power feed, with the option of expanding to 60 megawatts. The plans by the developers, Ascent and the Koman Group, call for eight 50,000 square foot pods of raised floor space in a two-story structure. Plans call for 21-foot ceilings, which would allow raised floors of up to four feet. The specs call for a pre-action sprinkler system and VESDA fire protection. It’s important to note that these are the developer’s specs, and Microsoft will be able customize for its own design.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

One Comment

  1. Kordy

    This is because Microsoft has seriously modified the original design Komen/Ascent had. I am an external PE close to this project and can tell you that the Microsoft Engineering team has substantially changed just about every aspect of the building. Everything from the power being provided to the site down to some extremely interesting power distribution systems and cooling configurations. I cant say much else, but will tell you that they have some very serious mental horsepower on that team. I have designed mission critical systems for 12 years and have never met a team that good. This is going to be a very interesting project!