Inside Microsoft’s Chicago Data Center

A view of the container area in the new Microsoft data center in Chicago.

A view of the container area in the new Microsoft data center in Chicago (click to see a larger version of this image).

Microsoft’s new $500 million Chicago data center is one of the largest data centers ever built, spanning more than 700,000 square feet. But it’s also one of the most unusual, with its garage-like lower level optimized for 40-foot shipping containers packed with web servers, while a second story houses traditional raised-floor data center space. Microsoft opened the facility for a tour on Sept. 30.

About a dozen parking spaces in the ”container canyon” (shown above) are occupied by containers packed with servers and, in some cases, equipment to power and cool the servers. Each row of containers plugs into a spine providing hookups on the lower level, with power distribution equipment on a mezzanine level. With double-stacked containers, portable stairs can be wheeled in to provide access for maintenance.

This view of the container area also provides a look at the ceiling, where you can see large ductwork for the cooling system, as well as the extensive conduits for power and fiber.

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