Microsoft’s Top 10 Business Practices for Environmentally Sustainable Data Centers (celebrating Earth Day)

How to Reduce Energy Consumption, Waste, and Costs while Increasing Efficiency and ROI

What does environmental sustainability mean to data centers, industry operators, and IT businesses? A lot of managers in these areas may barely notice the Earth Day global event on April 22 as they struggle to support their businesses in the face of budget cuts and uncertainty about the future. But the fact is, being “lean and green” is good for both the business and the environment, and organizations that focus their attentions accordingly will see clear benefits. Reducing energy use and waste improves a company’s bottom line and boosting the use of recycled materials is a proven way to demonstrate good corporate citizenship to your customers, employees, and the communities you do business in.

That said, with so much on the plates of data center and IT professionals these days it isn’t always easy to know where to begin in moving to greener and more efficient operations. With that in mind—along with Microsoft’s commitment to share best practices with the rest of the data center industry—we asked some of the senior members our Global Foundation Services’ Infrastructure Services team to send us their top ten best business practices for environmentally sustainable data centers and IT.

Their favorite practices are reflected in our new “Microsoft’s Top 10 Business Practices for Environmentally Sustainable Data Centers” paper.  

You can explore other data center resources on our GFS web site here.

Microsoft announced in March 2009 that it is taking a proactive corporate approach to reduce our carbon emissions per unit of revenue by at least 30 percent below 2007 levels by 2012. The data centers managed by GFS are a significant component of Microsoft’s carbon footprint, and our organization plays a vital role in Microsoft’s efforts to meet this corporate goal.

As you’ll read in the list of best practices we’ve compiled, companies can make major gains in energy efficiency by increasing server utilization and moving to virtualization, plus you can employ a wide range of smaller initiatives that collectively add up to significant gains. Microsoft has been using these practices for several years now and found that in addition to helping us protect the environment, they make best use of our resources and help us stay tightly aligned with our core strategies and goals. We hope they work for you as well.

Below is an overview of the best practices list. 

1.       Provide incentives that support your primary goals.

2.       Focus on effective resource utilization.

3.       Use virtualization to improve server utilization and increase operational efficiency.

4.       Drive quality up through compliance.

5.       Embrace change management.

6.       Invest in understanding your application workload and behavior.

7.       Right-size your server platforms to meet your application requirements.

8.       Evaluate and test servers for performance, power, and total cost of ownership.

9.       Converge on as small a number of stock-keeping units (SKUs) as you can.

10.   Take advantage of competitive bids from multiple vendors to foster innovation and reduce costs.


Beyond the business practices listed above, Microsoft’s data center team is taking significant steps in four areas important to environmental sustainability:

·         Using recycled resources whenever practical: The Microsoft data center in San Antonio, Texas, for example, uses approximately eight million gallons of recycled water a month from the city’s waste water system during peak cooling months.

·         Using renewable resources whenever available: In the process we have developed for deciding where to build our data center facilities, renewable energy sources play a key role. For instance, the Microsoft data center in Quincy, Washington, uses 100 percent renewable hydropower from the Columbia Basin River. The San Antonio facility obtains part of its electricity from wind power.  And the company’s Dublin, Ireland, data center will use outside air for cooling, thus reducing the need for energy-intensive coolers.

·         Reducing waste in operations: One example of Microsoft’s focus on reducing waste is the company’s transition to using standard shipping containers to house thousands of servers apiece. Ordering servers by the truckload eliminates the need for large amounts of packaging and other materials previously required when servers were delivered individually or in racks.

·         Actively participating in industry environmental groups: Microsoft plays leadership roles in Climate Savers Computing Initiative and The Green Grid—industry organizations focused on improving computer systems and data center energy efficiency and establishing a standard methodology for measuring Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) accurately and consistently. We also feel it’s important for us to openly share information and best practices around data center energy efficiency, because we believe the data center industry needs to work together to make dramatic gains toward environmental sustainability.


The teams that contributed to this white paper are represented by our power and cooling architect Christian Belady, our distinguished engineer Dileep Bhandarkar, our Data Center Services director Daniel Costello (“the father” of our Generation 4 modular data center vision and the leader of the team of engineers that created it), our Data Center Software Services general manager Jawaid Ekram, and myself.

Their backgrounds include expertise in data center electrical and mechanical engineering, power and cooling architecture and design, research and development, and business operations and administration.  It has been my distinct pleasure to work with and lead these subject matter experts and to share their thoughts with the industry via our blogs and participation in industry events.



Arne Josefsberg,

General Manager of Infrastructure Services

Global Foundation Services


Comments (2)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Today, countries all around the globe unite to observe Earth Day , a day designated nearly 40 years ago

  2. Md says:

    From Recyclable Forks to Research into Climate Change, Microsoft Works to Make Planet More Sustainable

    A new article just posted about MSFT’s environmental guru -Rob Bernard’s efforts in leading Microsoft’s environmental sustainability efforts, helping customers, partners and its own employees consider software to make a difference.

    You can access it at

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