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Microsoft Moves Beyond the Traditional Data Center

If the big cloud players are trying to bully the industry with money and resources, I guess I have to ask - To what end?

Michael Manos's Blog

Microsoft has invested in both technology and software to allow us to run our environments more aggressively than a traditional data center environment. We understand that certain industries have very specific requirements around the operation of storage of information which drive and dictate certain physical reliability and redundancy needs.

I was personally greatly disappointed with the news coming out of last week that the Uptime Institute had branded Microsoft and Google as the enemy to traditional data center operators. To be truthful, I did not give the reports much credit especially given our long and successful relationship with that organization. However, when our representatives to the event returned and corroborated the story, I have to admit that I felt more than a bit let down.

As reported elsewhere, there are some discrepancies in how our mission was portrayed versus the reality of our position. One of the primary messages of our cloud initiatives is that there is a certain amount of work/information that you will want to be accessed via the cloud, and there is some work/information that you want to keep privately. It's why we call it SOFTWARE + SERVICES. There’s quite a few things people just would not feel comfortable running in the cloud. We are doing this (data center construction and operation) because the market, competitive forces, and our own research is driving us there. I did want to address some of the misconceptions coming out of that meeting however:

On PUE, Measurement, and our threat to the IT industry

The comments that Microsoft and Google are the biggest threat to the IT industry and that Microsoft is “making the industry look bad by putting our facilities in areas that would bring the PUE numbers down” are very interesting. First as mentioned before, please revisit our Software + Services strategy, its kind of hard to be a threat if we are openly acknowledging the need for corporate data centers in our expressed strategy. I can assure you that we have no intention of making anyone look “bad”, nor do we in any way market our PUE values. We are not a data center real estate firm and we do not lease out our space where this might even remotely be a factor.

While Microsoft believes in Economization (both water and air-side), not all of our facilities employ this technology. In fact, if a criticism does exist its that we believe that its imperative to widen your environmental envelopes as open as you can. Simply stated - run your facilities hotter!

The fact of the matter is that Microsoft has invested in both technology and software to allow us to run our environments more aggressively than a traditional data center environment. We understand that certain industries have very specific requirements around the operation of storage of information which drive and dictate certain physical reliability and redundancy needs. I have been very vocal around getting the Best PUE for your facility. Our targets are definitely unrealistic for the industry at large but the goal of driving the most efficiency you can out of your facilities is something everyone should be focused on.

It was also mentioned that we do not measure our facilities over time which is patently untrue. We have years and years worth of measured information for our facilities with multiple measurements per day. We have been fairly public about this and have produced specifics on numbers (including the Uptime Symposium last year) which makes this somewhat perplexing.

On Bullying the Industry

If the big cloud players are trying to bully the industry with money and resources, I guess I have to ask - To what end? Does this focus on energy efficiency equate to something bad? Aside from the obvious corporate responsibility of using resources wisely and lowering operating costs, the visibility we are bringing to this space is not inherently bad. Given the energy constraints we are seeing across the planet, a focus on energy efficiency is a good thing.

Lets not Overreact, There is yet hope

While many people (external and internal) approached me about pulling out of the Uptime organization entirely or even suggesting that we create a true non-for-profit end user forum, motivated by technology and operations issues alone, I think its more important to stay the course. As an industry we have so much yet to accomplish. We are at the beginning of some pretty radical changes in both technology, operations, and software that will define our industry in the coming decades. Now is not the time to splinter but instead redouble our efforts to work together in the best interests of all involved.

Instead of picking apart the work done by the Green Grid and attacking the PUE metric by and large, I would love to see Uptime and Green Grid working together to give some real guidance. Instead of calling out that PUE’s of 1.2 are unrealistic for traditional data center operators, would it not be more useful for Uptime and Green Grid to produce PUE targets and ranges associated with each Uptime Tier? In my mind that would go along way to drive the standardization of reporting and reduce ridiculous marketing claims of PUE.

This industry is blessed with two organizations full of smart people attacking the same problem set. We will continue our efforts through the Microsoft Data Center Experience (MDX) events, conferences, and white-papers to share what we are doing in the most transparent way possible.

 

More Stories By Michael J. Manos

Michael Manos is General Manager, Data Center Services at Microsoft. He is a seasoned information systems management executive with over 14 years of increasing management experience and technical industry certifications with an exceptionally strong background in data center management, information technology platforms, network management, service management (ITIL) and telecommunication technologies.

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