Microsoft, Google and Data Center Glasnost

Chris Malone of Google speaks Tuesday at the Uptim Institute Symposium 2009 in New York, while Uptime founder Ken Brill listens.

Chris Malone of Google speaks Tuesday at the Uptime Institute Symposium 2009 in New York. Listening at right is Uptime Institute founder Ken Brill.

One of the best-attended Tuesday sessions at The Uptime Institute’s Symposium 2009 in New York was a presentation by Google’s Chris Malone. As has been noted elsewhere, Malone’s talk summarized much of the information that Google disclosed April 1 at its Data Center Efficiency Summit. But there was a noteworthy moment during the question and answer period when Daniel Costello approached the mike.

Costello is one of the architects of Microsoft’s CBlox data center container strategy. Keep in mind that Microsoft has yet to finish its first containerized facility in Chicago, and Costello had just watched a video documenting Google’s completion of a data center container farm in Sept. 2005, nearly three years before Microsoft announced its project. Would there be tension, or perhaps a debate about the dueling designs?

“Microsoft applauds Google’s openness in presenting this information,” Costello said. “It’s moving us forward to a data center glasnost of sorts.” Glasnost, for those with short memories, was the policy of openness and transparency that Mikhail Gorbachev introduced in the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Over the past year Microsoft has been actively discussing some of its data center innovations and best practices at industry events. Responding to Costello, Malone said Google intends to pursue a similar path, reversing years of secrecy about its data center operations. “One of the reasons we’re here is to share in the industry discussions,” said Malone, who added that Google has now joined The Green Grid, one of the industry consortiums on energy efficiency.

There are differences in the two companies’ approaches. Microsoft is talking publicly about its future data center design plans, like the “Generation 4 ” plan for roofless container farms. Google’s disclosures thus far have focused on older facilities that likely don’t represent the 2008 model year for its data centers. And as happened at Uptime, there will be continuing debates in the industry about how much of the innovation seen at Google and Microsoft is relevant to smaller data centers.

But when it comes to expert information on best practices, more is better. Like the end users, the data center industry has its share of information siloes, and its good to see that starting to change. Much hard work remains. But Glasnost is far better than a data center Cold War.

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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.

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