Microsoft Building 'Containerized' Data Center

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-04-01 Print this article Print

A new Chicago-area facility will be the first to feature many self-contained, modular subsystems.

LAS VEGAS-Microsoft is in the process of building the industry's first container-based data center.

Microsoft first said a year ago that it was considering the idea, and now the concept is coming to fruition, Michael Manos, Microsoft's senior director of Data Center Services, said April 1 in a keynote address at the AFCOM Data Center World conference here.

The new center will be located in Northlake, Ill., near Chicago. Microsoft is also building new data centers in San Antonio; Quincy, Wash.; and Dublin, Ireland. The Chicago facility will be the only one with a "containerized" floor.

"This is the first data center of this kind that we know of, and we've seen a lot of them," Microsoft Principal Power and Cooling Architect Christian Belady told eWEEK.

It is an emerging trend in the industry for data centers to use containers as a key component. Sun Microsystems introduced the idea in October 2006 with its Project Blackbox data center, and it has been selling them in increasing numbers ever since.

Each Blackbox package combines storage, computing, and network infrastructure hardware and software-along with high-efficiency power and liquid cooling-in modular units based on standard 20-by-8-by-8-foot shipping containers.

Each unit holds up to 250 Sun Fire blade servers (standard 19-inch-wide size) and provides up to 1.5 petabytes of disk storage, 2 petabytes of tape storage and up to 7TB of RAM. A fully configured Blackbox unit weighs under 20,000 pounds and has front and rear doors, seven service access points inside, and cutting-edge cooling and power distribution equipment.  

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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