April 19, 2012, 12:12 PM — Microsoft has been notably forward-thinking in data-center design over the past few years, at least the design of its own data centers.
Last year it announced it was building a data center inside an old barn that was partly open to outside air so it could take advantage of natural air circulation and heat leakage as part of its plan to cool the place.
It ran a prototype data center in a tent for seven months to make sure the idea would work.
Earlier this month it announced it was building one in Wyoming, which isn't that innovative in itself, but how many data centers have you ever visited in Wyoming? (The state offered $10 million in incentives for a data center Microsoft said will cost $112 million to build.)
Amidst a shift from a business model totally dependent on selling software to be installed on a customer's own hardware to one in which Microsoft has to host and maintain SaaS or cloud versions of many of its own apps, to be sold by subscription, the ultimate software company is having to expand its network of data centers rapidly.
It has expanded its facilities in the Seattle area, in Dublin and located others in Quincy, Wash., Chicago, San Antonio, Tex. And Southern Virginia.
The "mega data centers" among the new crowd cost as much as $500 million to build.
Smells like renewable power supplies
Microsoft's newest plan is to power a data center partially using heat and biogas generated by landfills and sewage treatment plants.
[Fill in your own joke here]
The design calls for a modular data center in which the hardware and support systems are housed in crates similar to shipping containers.
It will include facitlities to collect methane produced by landfills and sewage treatment plants to be used in fuel cells that will provide electricity for the hardware in the IT PACS (Pre-assembled Components) – Microsoft's term for data center modules built inside shipping containers.
The theoretical savings in power and carbon-dioxide emissions is impressive, though. According to Microsoft, a 200 kilowatt prototype data center will eliminate more than two million pounds of CO2 emissions per year, an amount Microsoft said is equivalent to 300 Honda Civics.