Ballmer: Microsoft has 1 Million Servers

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Microsoft has more than 1 million servers

The interior of a container packed with servers at a Microsoft data center in Chicago. (Image: Microsoft Corp)

Microsoft now has more than 1 million servers in its data centers, according to CEO Steve Ballmer, who confirmed the number during his keynote address during last week’s Worldwide Partner Conference in which he handicapped the size of the server platforms for the world’s leading  cloud computing providers.

“I claim there really are almost no companies in the world, just a handful, that are really investing in scaled public cloud infrastructure,” said Ballmer (see transcript ). “We have something over a million servers in our data center infrastructure. Google is bigger than we are. Amazon is a little bit smaller. You get Yahoo! and Facebook, and then everybody else is 100,000 units probably or less. So the number of companies that really understand the network topology, the data center construction, the server requirements to build this public cloud infrastructure is very, very small.”

With Ballmer’s comments, Microsoft becomes the first of the major search and cloud players to confirm how many servers they have running in their data centers. For Google has released data suggesting it has at least 900,000 servers under management, and media reports suggest they have deployed at least one million servers over the life of the company. But the company has never confirmed a number.

Ballmer didn’t indicate whether he had first-hand knowledge of  other companies’ server counts or was guesstimating. It’s hard to imagine Google or Amazon sharing information about their server platforms with Microsoft, as those companies believe the details of their infrastructure are a competitive advantage. Even Facebook, which has open sourced much of its designs for its data center hardware but remains vague about its server count, saying only that it operates “hundreds of thousands” of machines.

Will Ballmer’s statements end all the server secrecy? Will we see Larry Page and Jeff Bezos disclosing the size of their server armadas? In disclosing the number, Ballmer was making the point that massive scale matters in public cloud, and Microsoft has it.

There are those who assert that server counts are a silly metric. The Internet disagrees, as our examination of Who Has the Most Servers? continues to be one of DCK’s most popular features. We’ve updated that story to add the new number for Microsoft, as well as updates for Facebook, OVH, Akamai, eBay and Rackspace. How many servers do these companies have? Look here to find out.

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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6 Comments

  1. Hangar18

    If they ran Linux, maybe they wouldn't have to run so many servers.

  2. Just think how much all them licences would have cost any other company running 1 million+ Windows servers!

  3. Ed

    I am going to guess a few Website operator in China ( Sina ) has close to 1 Million server as well.

  4. wow microsoft should be paying more than $1 billion for licensing then. oh wait!