Skip navigation

Largest Data Centers: i/o Data Centers, Microsoft

We continue our review of the World's 10 Largest Data Centers.


A view from the catwalk entrance to the enormous Phoenix ONE data center in Phoenix, Arizona.

i/o Data Centers uses the 538,000 square foot Phoenix ONE facility site as both a data center and its corporate headquarters. But it’s not just the scope of the facility that makes Phoenix ONE distinctive. The huge data center features a number of design innovations, including an enormous rooftop array of solar panels that will eventually generate as much as 4.5 megawatts of power for the data center, and a thermal storage system that will allow i/o Data Centers to run chillers for its cooling systems at night when power rates are lower. The building's energy efficiency features include low-power LED lighting on the data center floor, ultrasonic humidifiers for climate control, highly efficiency computer room air handlers (CRAHs) using plug fans,  high-efficiency chillers, and perimeter flooring made from recycled car tires. For more, see Inside the Phoenix ONE Data Center and Ready to Super-Size the Enterprise.


An aerial view of Microsoft's huge Dublin data center.

Microsoft’s new Dublin Data Center represents a milestone in data center design. The new facility will power much of Microsoft’s global cloud computing operation, while using far less energy and water than typically consumed in other data centers of this scale. The Dublin center operates at a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.25, Microsoft says, compared to averages of about 2.0 for the industry. The design innovations driving its efficiency include a “free cooling” system that uses outside air to cool the data center, and a server pod design that employs hot aisle containment to support warmer operating temperatures inside the server space. Microsoft says it can run its server rooms at temperatures of up to 95 degrees F (35 degrees Celsius), much warmer than most data centers, which typically range between 68 and 72 degrees. For more, see Inside Microsoft's Dublin Mega Data Center and Microsoft's Chiller-Less Data Center.


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

The enormous Microsoft Chicago Data Center in Northlake, Illinois showcases a container-driven design that Microsoft expects to deliver huge benefits in cost and energy efficiency. The new data center is an unusual hybrid of what Microsoft views as the present and future of data center design, separated by a staircase. The lower level is a vast space with a high ceiling and diagonal parking spaces for double-stacked 40-foot shipping containers filled with up to 2,000 servers. The first phase can hold up to 56 containers, and a second phase (currently shell space) offers identical capacity, giving the Chicago facility a total capacity of 112 containers holding 224,000 servers. The second floor of the enormous facility features traditional raised-floor data center space using hot and cold aisles. The upstairs area includes space for four 12,000 square foot pods of raised-floor space, enough to support tens of thousands of additional servers to power Microsoft’s “Live” suite of online services. For more details and photos, see Inside Microsoft's Chicago Data Center and Microsoft Unveils Its Container-Powered Cloud.

NEXT: Massive facilities from NGD Europe, Terremark and QualityTech

Special Report Main Page