When you decide to build a data center that holds 500,000+ servers and consume 120 MW of power it makes sense to think really hard about what that data center should look like. Do you take a conventional design and simply scale it up, i.e. a big empty box of a building filled with rows of racks that seem “to stretch out to the crack of doom”? Or do you start from first principles and question almost every piece of conventional wisdom about data center design including power distribution, cooling, and availability?
Interestingly, Microsoft chose the latter approach, and in the process, they have created their Generation 4 Modular Data Centers (I’ll call them G4M for short) which look nothing like a conventional data center. The details of their G4M Data Centers were publicized this week in a very interesting blog posting from Mike Manos at Microsoft. The key aspect of G4M data center is that it is completely containerized, not just the servers but everything, power, cooling etc all come in pre-built standard container configurations. The containers are deployed in the open air (think “trailer park” data center) and new modules can be added rapidly to meet demand. Different configurations of containers can be used to deal with different availability requirements ranging from very low (relying on air cooling and no redundant power) all the way to full “tier IV” availability with redundant everything. Just to give you an idea of how different this data center looks, here’s one of the graphics from the blog entry…
So in parting, if you are at all interested in the future of data center design, go read the blog!
Posted by: Nik Simpson