WEB 2.0 - Microsoft: Datacenter growth defying Moore's Law

WEB 2.0 - Microsoft: Datacenter growth defying Moore's Law

Where will all the servers go?

Fast, cheap and all over the place. That's how technology experts behind Microsoft's fast-growing Live offerings envision the future of the enterprise data centre in a Web 2.0 driven world.

Faced with a shortage of data centre space and demand for data centre space that is more than doubling every 24 months, Microsoft is eyeing alternatives to traditional data centre design, including the use of mobile shipping-containers spread all over the globe to facilitate growth and deal with user demand, according to James Hamilton, architect of Microsoft's Windows Live, during a presentation on data centre design at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.

Just as Web 2.0 app developers pursue innovative means for achieving explosive growth, those in charge of the Web 2.0 server room were looking for cutting-edge methods for processing and facilitating that growth, Hamilton said.

"The glut of 2000 data centre space is over," he said, referring to the fallout of the dotcom market collapse, which left a glut of excess data centre and bandwidth capacity. "We are out of space industry-wide. We have taken all the most desirable space and everyone is in a mass buildup."

Google alone had 450,000 systems running across 20 data centres, and Microsoft's Windows Live team was doubling the number of servers it used every 14 months, which was faster than [Moore's Law] , Hamilton said, referring to the famous observation by Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every 24 months.

Companies such as Microsoft and Google have been expanding their data centre facilities at a breathtaking pace in recent years. Most recently, Google said it would build a $US600 million data centre near Charleston, South Carolina , where tax breaks and ample electricity were available. Microsoft has announced similar plans for rural Washington State .

Microsoft, IBM, HP, Sun and others have also formed a consortium called the Green Grid to tackle an impending energy crisis that threatens data centre growth.

Hamilton discussed a data centre design strategy that used the storage container as a core building block and stressed the importance of a paradigm shift in server farm architecture in light of the data deluge brought on by the expansive growth of Web 2.0.

To meet the growing need for data centre space, Hamilton advocates what he called a services rather than an enterprise model for the Web 2.0 data centre: housing operations in dispersed, tightly packed storage-container data centres, not unlike Sun Microsystems Project Blackbox.

The air-tight containers would be constructed to achieve close proximity between server boxes and computer room air-conditioning units, with variable fans controlling airflow. The power-efficiency benefits of this construction would be further enhanced by the near total elimination of ingress and egress for human access, thereby eliminating the space-waste issues faced by traditional data centres, Hamilton said.

The containers -- the data centre equivalents of flash drives -- would be dispersed strategically about the globe in an effort to move capacity to the edge, closer to customers, thereby diminishing dependency on and costs associated with content distribution networks, he said.

"We're not close enough to customers, so we have to work with content distribution networks as well," Hamilton said.

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