Microsoft Using Kinect to Manage Data Centers

Microsoft says it will integrate its Kinect controller into its data center management tools.

Continuing to break new ground with its data center tools, Microsoft said today that it had customized its management software to work with one of the company’s other high-profile technologies – the Kinect gaming controller.

The switch to a motion-controlled management system is an unusual step, but Microsoft says the change will simplify many of the  tasks associated with managing a data center, allowing the data center team to use gestures and voice commands to control servers and track power usage. As Microsoft seeks to streamline the management of its many facilities, the company says the design of the front-end interface is as critical as the back-end.

Continuing to Innovate

SCRY is the in-house software Microsoft uses to monitor its global data center network. It’s an analytics tool that lets the company monitor its energy use, carbon footprint and power bill in each of the company’s dozens of data centers and edge network hubs. Microsoft executives say the move is a logical extension of their mission to innovate in every aspect of data center operations.

“Everyone knows that Kinect for Xbox 360 is one of the hottest gaming platforms available today,” said Kevin Timmons,the General Manager of Microsft Global Foundation Services. “Now we’re building upon Kinect’s ‘You are the Controller’ capabilities by using it to remotely perform everyday maintenance tasks in our Microsoft data centers. Our operations team based here in Redmond can now seamlessly and securely manage our worldwide data center assets using hand gestures and voice commands.”

The Kinect uses a set of cameras to detect depth and color, processing the information to track players and their movements. The system is the fastest-selling consumer electronics device in history, selling more than 10 million units as of March 9.

New Levels of Multi-Tasking

Microsoft’s move is the latest in a series of efforts to adapt the Kinect as an interface for complex tasks. Scientists from MIT have adapted the Kinect to control robots, while researchers at USC have used the Kinect to control characters in World of Warcraft and other immersive environments.

By applying innovation to the routine tasks of facility management, Microsoft said it believes it can make data center management more attractive to a new generation of workers who embrace active gaming, and enable new forms of multi-tasking among the existing data center team.

“We have some engineers who have become so proficient that they can simultaneously perform memory upgrades while they’re hitting a high score on Dance Central,” said Timmons.

We’d like to wish all the readers of Data Center Knowledge a happy April Fool’s Day. Our thanks to Kevin Timmons and the data center team at Microsoft for having such  a great sense of humor.

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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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  1. Not sure if the good folks at Data Center Knowledge have seen this before, but some smart engineers are taking it beyond a April Fool's Day joke -

  2. Funny, Nick Weaver with EMC has been demoing his Kinect-based interface for managing VMware environments for months. No joke. Imagine what could be done once Microsoft actually releases a driver stack for the Kinect, so developers didn't have to bash everything together to get it to work...

  3. Brian, Jeremiah: Many thanks for the update. Turns out the joke is on us. I've posted a new item noting Nicholas Weaver's work in this area. Very cool stuff.

  4. Interesting post! As always love keeping up with the industry with with little time on hand. Keep up the good work!