January 05, 2011, 2:41 PM — This may not make anyone feel better who's thinking about using Microsoft's Azure cloud service or impending new data center to house data that's important enough to be kept indoors, rather than out in the carport.
Microsoft is apparently expanding on lessons learned in an experiment it conducted in which it ran a bunch of servers from Nov. 2007 to June 2008 outside under the kind of tent that disreputable neighbor keeps a rusty El Camino and a bunch of tools borrowed from other people.
Despite water dripping onto the rack, windstorms that collapsed a fence onto the rack and leaves sucked into the servers, everything ran without incident, according to a story in Data Center Knowledge, based on information from Microsoft itself.
The reason it won't make you feel any better is that Microsoft will be housing part of its Azure cloud service in a newly designed, modular, expandable data center it just got approval to build next to an existing data center in Quincy, Wash.
Though it will be one of Microsoft's "most innovative new data centers," it will be a little drafty compared to most others. It will be housed in a building supported by a steel and aluminum skeleton, wrapped in lightweight walls more like those of Quonset huts than bunker-like traditional data centers and will use ambient air to help cool the servers inside.
The result would look less like a traditional data center than the kind of metal "tractor shed" Microsoft Director of Datacenter Services, Kevin Timmons, saw growing up in rural Illinois, he wrote.
Which would be an interesting experiment, and possibly a defensible one, considering that Microsoft projects really impressive cost savings from heating and cooling and much greater scalability. It's easier to blow out a wall and slide in a new bank of servers if you can take off the wall and carry it away rather than bash it into showers of broken cement that have to be removed by heavy machinery.
Except, Microsoft's reputation takes so much damage from viruses and security holes on the desktop and commodity level servers that it has to fight for every bit of credibility in the data center. A Quonset-hut data center won't help.