Microsoft Nears $1 Billion in Virginia Data-Center Investment

Microsoft’s latest data centers have turned to modular solutions.

The state of Virginia announced Jan. 30 that Microsoft is investing $348 million more to expand its modular data center in Mecklenberg County, bringing its total investment in the facility to nearly $1 billion.

The money will go towards building two additional facilities onsite, designed to house more of the modular server designs that power Microsoft’s cloud services.

“This expansion will allow us to meet the growing demand from consumers and businesses for our cloud services in the region in an increasingly efficient manner,” Christian Belady, general manager of Microsoft Data Center Services, wrote in a statement. “These facilities showcase state-of-the-art designs developed from our latest technology and infrastructure research that continues to minimize water, energy use, and building costs, while increasing computing capacity, software capabilities, and server utilization.”

Microsoft’s original datacenter involved an investment of up to $499 million and created 50 new jobs. In 2011 the company invested an additional $150 million to expand the site.

While Microsoft originally began building data centers close to home (beginning with a 470,000-square-foot data center in Quincy, Wash., near its headquarters in Redmond), it has since expanded to San Antonio, Texas; West Des Moines, Iowa; and the Virginia facility, among others.

Microsoft’s latest data centers have turned to modular solutions, which rely on theITPAC (IT Pre-Assembled Components) solution the company first discussed in 2011. In 2008, Microsoft began using prefabricated containers filled with as many as 2,000 preconfigured servers; the containers could be plugged into pre-built mechanical, electrical, cooling and security components.

These so-called “Generation 4” modular facilities can do without a roof, since the compartments are self-contained. Doing so exposes them to the elements, but Microsoft has designed them to accommodate temperatures of between 10 degrees to 35 degrees centigrade (50 degrees Fahrenheit to 95 degrees F) and between 20 percent and 80 percent relative humidity. To boost its green cred even further, Microsoft said it is offsetting the facility’s gross carbon emissions by purchasing an equivalent amount of renewable energy credits.

The new Virginia facilities will be stocked with these modular designs. Power Utilization Efficiencies for the company’s modular data centers are on the order of an impressive 1.05, ranging up to 1.15; on average, the company’s 2011 Power Utilization Efficiency was 1.40 across all of its cloud infrastructure properties, compared with an estimated industry average of 2.0. The company’s goal, by the end of 2012, was to construct new data centers that average 1.125 PUE.


Image: Microsoft

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