The Woman Behind the Microsoft Cloud

Debra Chrapaty, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Global Foundation Services, is in charge of the data centers that will run the new Microsoft Windows Azure cloud services. Chrapaty is tasked with ensuring Microsoft's data centers run 24/7 and will successfully compete with offerings from, Google and others.

LOS ANGELES-Despite all the talk about Microsoft's new Windows Azure cloud computing strategy, somebody has to be in charge of actually making sure that "cloud" stays up and running. That somebody is Debra Chrapaty.

Indeed, when Chrapaty joined Microsoft six years ago, Windows Azure was but a glimmer in Microsoft's eye. But because she ran the data center infrastructure for Microsoft, "my organization was the first to use the Azure environment and test it," she said.

Chrapaty's group runs more than 200 internal Microsoft properties, including Azure and other well-known entities such as Microsoft's Messenger, Hotmail and Search offerings.

Some interesting facts related to the computing horsepower across Microsoft's data centers include support of Live Search's 2.16 billion queries per month in 41 languages; and MSN's 550 million unique users and more than 10 billion page views per month. The data centers also have to support Microsoft Live ID's more than 1 billion authentications per day and Microsoft Messenger's 8.2 billion messages a day, Chrapaty said.

Read here how Azure could usher in the cloud as a commodity.

However, when discussions around Azure began to point to the need for even greater data canter capability, "we had a discussion on how we were going to do our own builds," Chrapaty said. "We looked at the FedEx model of building strategic landing fields around their distribution centers, but I don't deliver packages; I deliver bits," she said.

Still, "we created a heat map of the U.S., and we put in all these criteria, and we hit the button, and what came up as the best place to build a new data center was Quincy, Wash. And it came up for two reasons: One that there was clean hydroelectric power, and the other was that the town had committed to fiber."

Chrapaty said the Quincy facility is approximately 500,000 square feet on a site that is 75 acres. One lap around the site would be 1.3 miles. The construction of the facility called for 2,000 tons of steel, 3,125 truckloads of concrete and more than 1 million square feet of drywall. The source of the data center's power is hydro-a renewable and clean resource coming from the Columbia River Basin.

"Quincy is 100-percent hydro-sourced," Chrapaty said. And now that the initial build-out of the center is complete, it consumes up to 27 megawatts of electricity for IT equipment, she added.

Chrapaty said that four to five years ago, Microsoft began to plan to build out its data center capacity to focus on software plus services. And about three and a half years ago, "we started to create some unique design in data centers that we built from the ground up." A well-publicized one is in San Antonio.