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Azure Launches West US 3 Facility in West Phoenix, After Live-Modeling It in 3D

A handful of forward-thinking initiatives begins paying off for Microsoft, as its entirely air-cooled facility opens up in the middle of a potentially critical drought zone.

In the culmination of a construction project launched just last September, Microsoft on Tuesday cut the ribbon on its West US 3 data center facility in El Mirage, Arizona. That’s a western suburb of Phoenix, with a location just northeast of Luke Air Force Base.

As our Yevgeniy Sverdlik reported last September following Microsoft’s ground-breaking, construction engineers quite literally visualized their finished product in various stages of completion, by way of a building information management (BIM) system from Phoenix-based NOX Innovations, along with a visualization software suite from Tempe-based VisualLive. With this software, engineers wearing Microsoft HoloLens 2 mixed-reality glasses could see a live, fully-rendered model of their project, superimposed on a real-world image of where they were actually standing.

To pull off this project, VisualLive successfully integrated HoloLens glasses into protective hardhats, by way of hard-hat adapters.

Using VisualLive’s Remote Assist adaptation, a site engineer wearing one of these adapted hard-hats can walk through a building project, and see superimposed images of the project model overlaid atop what the engineer sees from the real world. What’s more, that same image can be directed through Microsoft Teams, so that planners and architects off-site can give verbal instructions to the on-site engineer, coordinate their plans, and make adjustments to the model in real time. The engineer sees his UX in front of his hand, as though it were a control panel suspended in space.

The launch of West US 3 comes in the wake of the US Bureau of Reclamation’s April declaration of an impending critical water shortage for the Colorado River by the end of this year. Should water levels there continue to fall at current rates, the Bureau would execute a joint contingency plan, signed in 2019 by seven US states including Arizona, along with Mexico.

That plan would officially declare a so-called “Tier 1 shortage” (no relation to Uptime’s data center tier system). In response, the State of Arizona would reduce water distribution to the Central Arizona region by about 320,000 acre-feet — enough for a normal supply to about 1.2 million people per annum. According to climate advocacy group Western Resource Advocates, more water has been slated for distribution from the Colorado River Basin than actually exists there.

Having thought ahead on that front as well, Microsoft opted for a fully air-driven, adiabatic cooling system. This leverages the dry heat, at ambient temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, to produce a current in which heat is transferred to liquid, which is itself pumped into a unit that removes further heat from recycled air.

Microsoft has also pledged its involvement with statewide initiatives to conserve and replenish water, including one project in collaboration with the Yavapai-Apache Nation, to help conserve water set aside for crop irrigations without reducing crop production yields.

At launch time, West US 3 made available some of Azure’s most basic services, predominantly virtual machine hosting. More complex, and arguably more energy-efficient, services such as Azure Kubernetes Service and Azure Red Hat OpenShift are not available at this new region yet, and may not be planned. In the works, according to Azure, are analytics services such as HDInsight and Azure Monitor Log Analytics, and Azure IoT Hub.

TAGS: Energy
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