Microsoft goes green with San Antonio datacentre

Microsoft has revealed it is relying on green technologies in its newest datacentres, including one in San Antonio where it is breaking ground.

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Microsoft has revealed it is relying on green technologies in its newest datacentres, including one in San Antonio where it is breaking ground.

The San Antonio building, one of several in the works at various locations, will be 500,000 square feet and contain tens of thousands of servers, said Michael Manos, senior director of datacentres at Microsoft. The company announced it would build the centre in San Antonio earlier this year.

The first phase of the facility will be operational in July next year, he said.

Microsoft's software plus services and Windows Live initiatives are driving these construction efforts, which will support the online services, he said. Microsoft is not alone among internet services companies building new facilities to support hosted services. Google and Yahoo have also both announced development of new large datacentres.

Microsoft said it uses 31 different criteria in choosing datacentre sites. While Manos couldn't describe them all for competitive reasons, he said access to environmentally friendly resources is one.

In San Antonio, Microsoft plans to use recycled water, sometimes called grey water, in its cooling systems. The option, which allows the use of water that is not fresh or drinkable but is not contaminated by any toxic substances, is offered by the local utility. It is considered environmentally friendly because it reduces demands for fresh water and doesn't consume the energy required to purify it at waste water treatment sites.

In addition, a significant portion of electricity in Texas is generated by wind, and that clean source of energy was attractive to Microsoft, Manos said.

The San Antonio facility will be a third the size of a massive datacentre that Microsoft is building in Quincy, Washington. That centre will be nearly carbon neutral, meaning it doesn't produce more carbon than it consumes. Electricity used at the Quincy datacentre will be generated by hydroelectric plants, which are commmon in Western Washington. The centre won't quite be totally carbon neutral, however, because the company uses diesel-powered generators for backup and must test those now and again, Manos said.

At some datacentres, Microsoft has systems that use outside air, if it's cool enough, to help regulate the temperature in the building rather than solely using air cooling systems.

Microsoft's efforts mirror those at IBM, which is spending £500m on improving energy efficiency at its datacentres.

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