Microsoft is expanding its data center footprint in Mecklenburg County, Va., to the tune of $348 million, the software giant announced.
The investment is not only expected to bring more IT jobs to the region, it will expand the company's Azure cloud computing platform. "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," Microsoft Data Center Services general manager Christian Belady said in a statement.
Microsoft, sensitive to the environmental impact of big cloud computing facilities, said that the expansion will serve as a showcase for the company's advancements in Green IT and data center energy efficiency.
"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," Belady said.
It's a tactic that does more than reduce carbon emissions; it can yield big savings for data center operators. A recent report based on a survey of 1,100 data center professionals by the Uptime Institute revealed that "energy-efficiency improvements are seen by most as a way to reduce operational costs." A staggering 82 percent said "financial savings" are a good reason to go green.
Microsoft's facilities in the area are based on a modular or containerized data center design philosophy. These modules, which house the necessary servers, storage and networking equipment in a shipping container, are typically trucked to a site and are quickly placed into operation.
This strategy lowers expenses and speeds deployment compared to conventional data centers since companies do not incur the cost—in money and time—of building a traditional computing facility. Efficient, server-dense modular designs also help cloud services providers save money on power and cooling as well as achieve ultra-low Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) scores (lower is better when it comes to PUE).
Microsoft built its first modular data center in 2008. Located in Northlake, Ill., near Chicago, the facility was among the first of its kind. Belady, then Microsoft's Principal Power and Cooling Architect, told eWEEK, "This is the first data center of this kind that we know of, and we've seen a lot of them."
Microsoft is also aiming for a carbon-neutral cloud. The company plans to offset its carbon emissions at the site with renewable energy credits.
For Virginia, the move boosts the region's status as an emerging data center and cloud computing hub.
"The Commonwealth's critical IT infrastructure enables us to attract global companies like Microsoft, which continually proves itself as an essential corporate partner to Southern Virginia. We thank the company for its major investments in Mecklenburg County, and remain committed to a strong alliance as the operation grows," said Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng, in a statement.