Shedding Light on Our New Cloud Farms

By Kevin Timmons,
General Manager of Datacenter Services


It’s an exciting time for Microsoft’s datacenter program.  In addition to operating one of the largest global datacenter footprints in the industry, we have been super busy working on multiple next-generation, modular facilities that are in various phases of construction. 


One of our most innovative new datacenters is set to open in Quincy, WA in early 2011 and incorporates key learnings from award-winning facilities that Microsoft opened last year in Chicago and Dublin.   The Dublin facility uses server PODs and outside air economization to cool the servers, which significantly reduces cooling expense and infrastructure costs. We took a slightly different approach with our Chicago datacenter which utilizes water-side economization for cooling and improves scalability by using IT Pre-Assembled Components (ITPACs.)   An ITPAC is a pre-manufactured, fully-assembled module that can be built with a focus on sustainable materials such as steel and aluminum and can house as little as 400 servers and as many as 2,000 servers, significantly increasing flexibility and scalability. You can learn more about our ITPACs by going to the ITPAC video 


The expansion in Quincy takes these ideas a step further by extending the flexibility of PACs across the entire facility using modular “building blocks” for electrical, mechanical, server and security subsystems.  This increase in flexibility enables us to even better support the needs of what can often be a very unpredictable online business and allows us to build datacenters incrementally as capacity grows.  Our modular design enables us to build a facility in significantly less time while reducing capital costs by an average of 50 to 60 percent over the lifetime of the project. 


View Microsoft's Modular Datacenter slide deck >>


When Phase 1 opens in Quincy it will be located adjacent to our existing 500,000-square-foot facility.  However, the new datacenter is radically different.  The building will actually resemble slightly more modern versions of the tractor sheds I spent so much time around during my childhood in rural Illinois. 


Tractor shed in my home town of Mt. Pulaski, IL


The building’s utilitarian appearance belies its many hidden innovations. The structure is virtually transparent to ambient outdoor conditions, allowing us to essentially place our servers and storage outside in the cool air while still protecting it from the elements. The interior layout is specifically designed to allow us to further innovate in the ways that we deploy equipment in future phases of the project. And, like any good barn, the protective shell serves to keep out critters and tumbleweeds.


Additional phases have been planned for the Quincy site and will be built based on demand.  Those phases will incorporate even more cutting-edge methods to deploy servers and storage in ways that have never been seen before in the industry.  


We will open other modular datacenters later in 2011 in Virginia and Iowa and I’ll be sharing more information about those facilities at that time.  Our modular approach to design and construction with these facilities will allow us to substantially lower cost per megawatt to build and run our datacenters while significantly reducing time to market.   This is the holy grail for most datacenter professionals…. fast, cheap and reliable – what more could you ask for? 


We’ve been sharing our research and best practices around modularity with our partners and others in the industry for a number of years and I’m thrilled to see the industry begin moving in this direction.  By sharing our learnings, we’ve helped others build more sustainable facilities and reduce our collective carbon footprint.  


Stay tuned for more information about our future datacenter projects in 2011.



Comments (2)
  1. msdcblog says:

    Thank you for your interest in our modular datacenter and the blog. I invite you to watch our video that demonstrates how ambient environmental conditions are managed with this latest technology that driving greater efficiencies and environmental sustainability in our facility designs today.

    The video can be watched via this URL…/84f44749-1343-4467-8012-9c70ef77981c

    Also, you can access some of the best practices shared by our datacenter engineering team via the white papers that are posted on our external web site at


  2. Brandon Adams says:

    How will you handle humidity?  That town is right next to a river and lakes, including Moses Lake, and has to see a fair amount of fog.

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