Microsoft to Open Dublin, Chicago Data Centers

Microsoft plans to roll out two new data centers in Chicago and Dublin in July, both of which will meet environmental sustainability standards, preparing for increased demand for cloud-based services such as Azure and Bing. Microsoft evidently anticipates an uptick in demand once Azure, its cloud-based services platform, rolls out to users later in 2009.

Microsoft plans to open two new data centers in Chicago and in Dublin, Ireland, in July.

The Dublin data center, which the company touts as the "first mega-data center Microsoft has built outside the United States," will enclose over 300,000 square feet of space. The Chicago data center will be nearly twice as large at 700,000 square feet, roughly the size of 16 football fields.

"Two-thirds of the Chicago data center is optimized for housing containerized servers," Arne Josefsberg, general manager of the infrastructure services division of Microsoft's Global Foundation Services, wrote in a June 29 post on the MS Datacenters blog. "Containers conserve energy and will help us realize new advancements in power efficiency with a PUE [power usage effectiveness] yearly average calculated at 1.22. These prepackaged units (with up to 1,800 to 2,500 servers each) can be wheeled into the facility and made operational within hours, so they represent important advances in the ability to quickly and efficiently provision capacity."

The Dublin facility has also been designed with energy efficiency in mind. In place of chillers or cooling towers, rooftop air handling units will drag outside air into the server rooms and then pull the return air from the racks through the rooftop, reducing the facility's carbon footprint and resulting in an annual PUE average of 1.25.

The extra data center capacity comes as Microsoft gears up Bing, its new search engine, and Azure, its cloud-based platform solution. Originally rolled out in October 2008 at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, Azure will eventually go head-to-head with and Google in offering SAAS (software as a service) to its users via distributed data centers.

Reports suggest that Azure will be generally available before the next PDC in November, and Microsoft is evidently preparing for what it perceives as an increase in demand.

Meanwhile, Bing continues to perform strongly against search rivals Google and Yahoo, placing additional demand on Microsoft's data centers. From June 8 to 12, Microsoft's share of search result pages in the United States increased to 12.1 percent, a rise of 3 percentage points from the week before Bing's June 1 release.

Bing represents a reversal of fortunes for Microsoft in the search engine space; according to research company Nielsen, Microsoft's share of the search engine market had been falling before the release of Bing.