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The trailer park is the computer

December 04, 2008

Microsoft is about to take trailer park computing, or, as The Register memorably dubbed it, white trash computing, to its logical and necessary conclusion. The company's next generation of utility data centers will take the form of - you guessed it - trailer parks: sprawling, roofless parking lots in which all the components - server clusters, power units, security systems - will be prefabricated offsite, packed into containers or other types of "modules," trucked in, and plopped down on the ground as needed. (No word on whether employees at the new centers will be required to wear wifebeaters or carry around 30-packs of Busch Light.)

In an extensive blog post, Microsoft's top data-center guy, Michael Manos, lays out the details of what the company calls its "Gen 4" centers, which will become the cornerstones of its "hyper-scale cloud infrastructure" for at least the next five years. He writes:

If we were to summarize the promise of our Gen 4 design into a single sentence it would be something like this: “A highly modular, scalable, efficient, just-in-time data center capacity program that can be delivered anywhere in the world very quickly and cheaply, while allowing for continued growth as required.” [You can tell Manos is a real data-center guy because he's under the impression that sentences don't require verbs.] From a configuration, construct-ability and time to market perspective, our primary goals and objectives are to modularize the whole data center. Not just the server side ... but the mechanical and electrical space as well. This means using the same kind of parts in pre-manufactured modules, the ability to use containers, skids, or rack-based deployments and the ability to tailor the Redundancy and Reliability requirements to the application at a very specific level.

The modularity of the systems will, in other words, allow the company to tailor the sophistication (and cost) of its infrastructure to the varying levels of service quality that users expect from different web apps, allowing reductions in capital costs, Manos says, of "20%-40% or greater depending upon class [of app]." Equally important, from a cost standpoint, the new design will allow the company "to deploy capacity when our demand dictates it" rather than "mak[ing] large upfront investments." This underscores one of the core economic challenges that has faced every utility through history and will face the new computing utilities as well: the need to match capacity to demand on an ongoing basis to ensure that capital is used efficiently.

On the green side of things, Manos says he expects the open-air design of the centers to "completely eliminate the use of water [for cooling]. Today’s data centers use massive amounts of water and we see water as the next scarce resource and have decided to take a proactive stance on making water conservation part of our plan." I may be reading too much into it, but I take this as a dig at Google, which up to now has sited its data centers in places where it has easy access not only to cheap electricity but to megagallons of water. In fact, I think Microsoft's openness about how it builds its data smelters is meant to draw a contrast with Google's hyper-secrecy. "By sharing [our plans] with the industry," writes Manos, "we believe everyone can benefit from our methodology. While this concept and approach may be intimidating (or downright frightening) to some in the industry, disclosure ultimately is better for all of us." Translation: Microsoft is all about sharing, while the Googlers are stingy and selfish. (That's a nice PR twist, but I'm guessing Google would argue that the reason it's more secretive is because it has more valuable stuff to hide.)

Oh yeah: there is the obligatory animated video, and it has a bitchin' soundtrack:

<br/><a href="http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?vid=b4d189d3-19bd-42b3-85d7-6ca46d97fe40" target="_new" title="Microsoft Generation 4.0 Data Center Vision">Video: Microsoft Generation 4.0 Data Center Vision</a>

Roofless!

Comments

Actually, Sun has been doing this for a while:
Image Gallery: Sun's Data Center On Wheels Rolls Into Manhattan . Just another example of MS being on the cutting edge ...;)

Posted by: Linuxguru1968 [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 8, 2008 04:44 PM

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