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Double-wide? How about 220-wide?

April 01, 2008

Grab a ratty lawnchair and put a case of Busch cans in the cooler because the data center has now officially become the trailer park.

Poindexter, meet Jethro.

Both Sun and Rackable introduced supercomputers-in-shipping-containers some time ago, but it's a move by Microsoft that pushes the trend into the mainstream. In its mammoth new data center in Chicago, reports Rich Miller, "Microsoft will forego a traditional raised-floor environment ... and will instead fill one floor of the huge facility with up to 220 shipping containers packed with servers." The "bold move," says Miller, "is an affirmation of the potential for containers to address the most pressing power, cooling and capacity utilization challenges facing data center operators." In designing the Chicago facility, Microsoft consulted with parking lot operators to ensure that semitrucks would be able to drive into the center and drop off the containers.

Microsoft's Michael Manos made the announcement in a speech today in Las Vegas. That seems like the perfect choice of venue. Despite all the glitz, Vegas is still a trailer-park town at heart.

UPDATE: There's more on the data center philosophy of the 'Soft Boys in this interview with Manos and one of his colleagues. On the attraction of containers: "One of the things we like about them is we can take a bunch of servers and look at the output of that box and look at the power it draws. At the end of the day, we can determine, 'What is the IT productivity of that unit? How many search queries were executed per box? How many emails sent or stored?' You can get into some really interesting metrics. A lot of people say you can't look at the productivity of a data center, but if you compartmentalize it - not as small as the server level, but at some chunk in between - you can measure productivity."


Just wait 'til that first twister comes.

Posted by: EzraBall [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2008 03:22 PM

Up-scale trailer park for the adventuress Microsoft executives or their minions!



Posted by: alan [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2008 03:36 PM

I don't get it for permanent installations. Sure, for a one time event, say supporting a SuperBowl.

A co-lo site needs power, AC, and lots of net access. The racks and servers are boring.

Equnix's Ashburn VA facility, which is not very old, has run out of cooling, it has the power, and network, but the latest servers are too dense, and generate too much heat.

I don't see what a shipping container adds, you sure can't add cooling towers and offsite chillers.

Posted by: fishtoprecords [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2008 09:20 PM

Excellent point in your update to the benefits of using the container as a unit of measure to compare compute capabilities. I've referenced this in my own blog entry pointing back this post. http://www.greenm3.com/2008/04/data-center-con.html

Posted by: Dave Ohara [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2008 11:59 PM


This is funny to watch and will get more funny. It's all b.s. Here is why:

Has Google bought a fab yet? I assume they are thinking about it but I don't have any facts to go with that.

Fabs matter for two reasons: a) they keep getting cheaper; b) there is tons and tons of neglected design space for chips in the low power direction.

Building containerized computing with the crap computers we have today is a little bit absurd. Except that when I say "little" I am being sarcastic. It is, perhaps, like yanking the engine from your 68 'vet, building a nice stand for it in your bedroom, and firing it up to power your generator so you have a nightlight while you sleep.

We're at a stage now where the big companies containerizing are partly doing it in small amounts to feel out the space, but also partly doing it to bluff their competitors into overspending on current generation hardware.


Posted by: Tom Lord [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 2, 2008 11:00 AM

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