Microsoft’s Top 10 Business Practices for Environmentally Sustainable Data Centers

Dileep Bhandarkar Ph.D.Dileep Bhandarkar Ph.D., Distinguished Engineer
Global Foundation Services

Microsoft recognizes the tough challenges that data center and IT managers face today as they struggle to support their businesses in the face of rising costs and uncertainty about the future. But the fact is - being "lean and green" is good for both the business and the environment.

It isn't always easy to know where to begin in moving to greener and more efficient operations. With that in mind-we are sharing our updated Top Ten Best Business Practices for Environmentally Sustainable Data Centers white paper. In this rapidly changing environment it is important that we all continually reassessed and share our best practices with each other. For this reason, senior members of Microsoft's Global Foundation Services (GFS) team have pooled their key learnings in this white paper.

As you'll read in the list of best practices we've compiled, companies can make major gains by providing incentives to your team to reduce energy consumption and drive greater efficiencies across the entire data center and employing a wide range of practices that can collectively add up to significant gains. Microsoft has been using these practices for several years now and has found that in addition to helping to improve environmental sustainability, they make best use of our resources and help us stay tightly aligned with our core strategies and business goals. 

Microsoft's top ten best practices for creating sustainable data centers are based on some basic principles: 

Effective resource utilization matters.Energy efficiency is an important element in Microsoft business practices, but equally important is the effective use of resources deployed. We eliminate features that are not essential for operating the services. This principle drives our efforts to right size our servers based on application requirements. Virtualization also improves server utilization by consolidating multiple instances of an application on the same hardware. Our data center designs offer various levels of redundancy to meet the resiliency needs of the different applications.


Standardization reduces variability and improves agility and costs, while reducing errors.  A major initiative in Microsoft data centers involves standardizing the platform. High degree of variability in the infrastructure can increase costs. Standardizing on a small set of servers, network equipment and data center technologies can drive economies of scale, and reduce support costs. Custom deployments are more error prone and expensive.

A holistic approach to total cost of ownership is essential.It is tempting to make purchase decisions based on acquisition costs, but often support and operating costs can be a dominant factor over the life of the equipment. The total cost of ownership should be evaluated against the value proposition of the equipment purchased. For example, consider the cost/performance of your servers instead of just performance. Make sure that reducing costs in one aspect of the operation does not increase cost somewhere else. Spending more on a higher efficiency power supply can reduce the total cost of ownership!


Only two-thirds of the total cost of deploying a server in a data center is related to the purchase price in this example. 

Disciplined change management improves predictability.Poorly planned changes to the production environment can have unexpected and sometimes disastrous results, which can spill over into the planet's environment when the impacts involve lower energy utilization and other inefficient use of resources. Changes may involve hardware, software, configuration, or process. Standardized procedures for the request, approval, coordination, and execution of changes can greatly reduce the number and severity of unplanned outages. 

Beyond the business principles listed above, Microsoft's Global Foundation Services' team is taking significant steps in four areas important to environmental sustainability:

  • Using recycled resources whenever practical
  • Using renewable resources to power our data centers
  • Reducing waste in operations
  • Taking part in industry environmental groups

Quality can be improved through a comprehensive compliance program.Microsoft recognizes that comprehensive and clearly communicated security protections are essential to building the customer trust necessary for cloud computing to reach its full potential. At the Microsoft data center level, many operations technologies and processes comprise a security program and control framework that is evaluated regularly by external parties.


Additional information on these best practices and more can be found in the white paper and via our new customer priority discussion videos posted on our team's web site.



Comments (0)

Skip to main content