Microsoft builds first major container-based datacentre

Microsoft and Sun Microsystems both may claim to have pioneered the "datacentre in a box" concept, but Microsoft appears to be the first company that is rolling out container-based systems in a major way inside one of its datacentres.

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Michael Manos, Microsoft's senior director of datacentre services, said at a conference in Las Vegas last week, that the first floor of a datacentre being built by the software vendor in the Chicago area will hold up to 220 shipping containers, each pre-configured to support between 1,000 and 2,000 servers, according to various news reports and blog posts.

That means the US$500 million, 550,000-square-foot facility in the Chicago suburb of Northlake, Ill., could have as many as 440,000 Windows servers on the first floor alone or up to 11 times more than the total of 40,000 to 80,000 servers that conventional datacentres of the same size typically can hold, according to Manos. He was quoted as saying that Microsoft also plans to install an undisclosed number of servers on the building's second floor, which will have a traditional raised-floor layout.

Microsoft's public relations staff didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Monday about the speech that Manos gave at the Data Center World conference. But James Hamilton, a technical architect on Microsoft's Windows Live Platform Services team, has posted multiple entries about the speech by Manos on his public blog.

Microsoft has said that it plans to begin operations at the Northlake datacentre by the end of the summer.

The company is on a datacentre building spree aimed at meeting the sharp growth in processing demand that its Windows Live and Office Live online services are expected to generate. Other IT facilities are being built in San Antonio, Dublin and rural Washington, which would be Microsoft's largest datacentre at 1.5 million square feet.

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