By Dileep Bhandarkar, Ph. D.
Global Foundation Services, Microsoft
Today our team is releasing a video tour of four of Microsoft’s global datacenters. The video provides an inside look at how the company has invested heavily to rapidly evolve its datacenter IT infrastructure and best practices to deliver greater scalability, reliability, efficiency, security, and sustainability.
We have come a long way since our first datacenter in 1989. The server count, power efficiencies and number of facility locations have grown dramatically. Microsoft’s cloud is now comprised of a globally distributed datacenter infrastructure supporting hundreds of online services, including Windows Azure, Office 365, Bing, MSN, Windows Live, Hotmail and Xbox Live. More than a billion customers and 20 million businesses in over 70 countries use these services each year.
To meet our business goals for delivering higher energy efficiency, sustainability, and computing capacity at scale, we started designing our own datacenters and servers a few years ago and have been constantly innovating to improve upon our best practices and key learnings gained over the past 22 years. Our first Microsoft-designed datacenter opened in 2007 and it gave us better control over our operating environment. This allowed us to achieve Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) well below the then industry average of over 2.0 for traditional facilities.
As our user base grew, operational excellence and services reliability required high availability through advanced monitoring and incident response, service support, and back-up failover capability, managed through our geographically distributed Microsoft Operations Centers—operating 24x7x365. Our customers demand trustworthy cloud services—requiring a comprehensive approach to security ranging from software development and operations to physical security. In addition to maintaining high standards for operations processes, we routinely bring in third parties to verify our capabilities, resulting in ISO and PCI certifications, SAS70 Type II attestations, and FISMA certification and accreditation.
Our pursuit of energy efficiency and cost effectiveness has been an ongoing activity. We divided our Chicago datacenter into two distinct level of service. The bottom floor houses water cooled containers without redundancy in the infrastructure. It relies on software that is resilient to failures. The container- based deployments allow us to deploy up to 2400 servers quickly, while driving the infrastructure cost down compared to traditional “N+1” datacenters. Our container bay is operating at a PUE of less than 1.25 compared to the traditional co-locations upstairs that operate at about 1.5.
We went on to build our Dublin datacenter with free air cooling to achieve even higher efficiencies for a traditional “N+1” datacenter with PUE of 1.25 compared to 1.5 for the upper floor in Chicago.
In 2010, we began building our first Generation 4 datacenter, culminating over three years of research and development internally and externally with industry partners. Generation 4 designs also built upon our Dublin datacenter experience of using free airside economization and applying it in a truly modular manner using two different form factors. The original container deployments have evolved into free air cooled Information Technology Pre-Assembled Components (ITPACs) that drive these new datacenters’ PUEs even lower than the Chicago facility containers. We are also using free air cooling for our N+1 modular designs, but now with simple metal buildings without raised floors. These fully modular facilities have reduced our time to market by 50 percent and deliver outstanding PUEs, low water utilization and low total cost of ownership.
In our Quincy datacenter, ITPACs are moved into place and connected to each other for complete module deployment.
The team is excited about the work ahead to support our growing cloud computing services. Our datacenters will continue to evolve to provide a robust, secure, highly reliable, and efficient foundational infrastructure. And we hope that by sharing our key learnings and best practices that we can help the industry, as a whole, to drive greater efficiencies in their environments and through the use of our cloud services.
We hope that you will enjoy the video tour of four our cloud infrastructure facilities.
You can access more of our best practices around datacenter efficiencies, rightsizing servers for production environments, cloud security, etc. in published papers and blogs available on our web site at http://www.globalfoundationservices.com.