The green data center and container lessons.

Tonight I’ve been reading up on Microsoft standardizing their data center containers”. Whether you adhere to the container philosphy or not, there are a number of things that everyone can take from Microsoft’s modular data centers.

The concept of modular data centers is simple. Standardize everything like a pile of Legos, take advantage of bulk purchasing, and do as much work as possible with the minimum number of people possible. It’s certainly an attractive proposition for huge companies such as Microsoft that need huge numbers of identical servers. If you don’t need 10s of thousands of identical servers or you want to optimize your facility to the max for the conditions for the local environment, probably not to most practical setup. It’s even worth noting that Microsoft’s massive container data center in Chicago also has a floor of conventional facility as well.

There are some things that anyone can learn from these, whether you build a container data center or not. The first idea is space efficiency. These containers remind me of Navy submarines. Severely space constrained so everything is packed in as efficiently as possible. When things are that tight, there’s no room for sloppy. This is worth keeping in mind even when you have a data center with more elbow room.

The second point is airflow efficiency. Using free air cooling in such a confined space demands absolute performance, maximum airflow and minimum turbulence. Get sloppy, leave cables hanging around, and it’s going to impact pronto.

Typical data centers lack a lot in precision of airflow. The matching half to free air cooling is precise air flow control. These two things together make a massive difference in cooling efficiency, especially if you’re using the natural movement of the air. Turbulence is evil.

The Microsoft containers are each a perfect example in minature of the things that need to be done to green any data center. Show the same attention to detail and follow these examples and your data center can be a greener shade of green too.

Vern, SwiftWater Telecom


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