Redmond has been discussing its green data centre strategy for some time now, but this post on the Microsoft website provides a nice summary of what the company is thinking and doing. Plus, you get an aerial photo of its data centre facility in Quincy (below).
So what has the company been up to?
The company has set up a Global Foundation Services (GFS) group that helps it and the industry to “find the intersection of cost and sustainability.” With the help of GFS, Microsoft claims that its facilities now consume between 30% to 50% less power that the global industry average for traditional data centres.
“We believe that it is important to track and monitor the power usage effectiveness (PUE) across all of our data centers, no matter how small or how old, in order to truly understand how well our data centers are managed and to allow us to make the right business decisions,” says Arne Josefsberg, general manager of Infrastructure Services for GFS. “When you’re managing an infrastructure of hundreds of thousands of servers, it is essential that you run it efficiently.”
The company also revealed some interesting facts, including that some of its ‘newest data centres span more than 10 times the size of a football field, and roughly half that space is taken up by chillers, generators, and other support equipment for the servers.’ In addition, it says one of its ‘fully loaded data centres draws approximately 40 megawatts, or the equivalent of ‘somewhere around 20,000 to 40,000 homes.’
Another interesting factoid is how Microsoft budgets internally for data centre usage. In the past, the company allocated data centre budgets according to the space the servers took up, which meant people started to buy denser server designs. Now the company has shifted the budget parametres to the power consumption of the servers, leading to people buying more energy efficient servers, a scheme that led to an immediate reduction in the average server power in its data centres, according to Christian Belady, principal power and cooling architecture with Microsoft’s GFS.
Microsoft also talks up its ‘Generation 4′ data centre design, its version of the modular data centre featuring ‘just in time’, containerised server clusters, and plug-and-play passive infrastructure.
“Today, it takes a year and half to build a data center’s infrastructure before the first server is delivered. In the future, data centers will be modular, scalable, and “just in time”—manufactured in a facility, put into containers, and then delivered by truck wherever they’re needed. This plug-and-play model would enable the infrastructure to scale with business demands, help reduce upfront capital investment, and drive down costs and energy use. In many respects, they will be more capable of accurately mirroring the scale of the cloud-computing services they support,” the company said.
Lastly, Microsoft highlights what it calls smart site selection for its data centres – basically choosing sites that have lower carbon footprints, such as regions that don’t depend on coal for electricity generation.