What makes Microsofts containers different
Microsoft's containers are similar in design to Sun's, only Microsoft will be using its own software and server and storage hardware from partners such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, NetApp and IBM. The containers themselves are also much larger-40 feet in length.
"We're using the extra-large shipping containers as a model," Manos said. "They'll hold anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 servers of any size, all in racks." Each container will be a little bit different from the next, depending on the customer, he said.
"All we care about is the power that goes in and the performance that comes out," Belady said. "The customer doesn't really care what's inside. We'll take care of that, and we'll make these scale to whatever computing job needs to be done."
"These containers are the way to go," Manos said. "Once the racks inside these things are hooked up and turned on, they [all the servers] discover each other automatically. They're ready to go to work in very little time."
The containers can house application servers, storage devices or a mix of both.
Microsoft also likes the fact that it's much easier and more efficient to record the I/O of each box for green IT purposes, Manos said.
"It's a cardinal sin for us at Microsoft to not use any of the power that we draw," he said. "That's a waste, and we're very cognizant of that."
Container-based data centers allow for better IT reporting all around, Manos said. Users will be able to chart the IT productivity of each unit and get clean statistics on data such as e-mail usage, search queries and any number of other business processes, Manos said.
The Chicago-area data center is expected to be completed later in the summer of 2008, as are the other three data centers. Each center will employ about 35 people on a 24/7 basis, Manos said.