Microsoft to reduce datacentre PUE to 1.25 within 24 months

By Nicola Brittain
18 Apr 2011 View Comments
Microsoft sign on wall

Microsoft plans to reduce the average PUE across all its datacentres to 1.25 within 24 months, according to Rick Bakken, senior director of datacentre evangelism at Microsoft, who was speaking at the Samsung-hosted CIO forum in Munich last week.

This is an ambitious statement, as Microsoft has about 100 datacentres worldwide.

Further reading

The PUE is determined by dividing the amount of power entering a datacentre by the power used to run the computer infrastructure within it. PUE is expressed as a ratio, with overall efficiency improving as the quotient decreases toward 1.

A phrase often repeated at the forum, which aimed to examine how best to increase efficiency in the datacentre, was that – although a significant two per cent of carbon emissions comes from ICT – the industry can also help reduce the other 98 per cent by developing technology that can enable other verticals to perform more efficiently.

Bakken concurred with this, but also explained how Microsoft was helping reduce ICT emissions. He said the company planned to reduce its average PUE as part of the deployment of a new type of generation 4 datacentre.

The generation 4 datacentre, of which the company has already deployed four in Ireland and Iowa, is modular.

The modular datacentres are built as IT packs and cost between $5m and $8m per megawatt – the cost of a first generation datacentre was $25m.

They comprise a steel structure, a commoditised datacentre in a box, a megawatt of power, two fibre channels and a garden hose. The hose water is only needed if temperatures go above 100 degrees. Water is then introduced to the airflow, which can reduce temperatures by about 20 degrees.

These modular datacentres can be built in 190 days, with the servers ordered and delivered within 90 days. They include four units of 2,000 servers in a pod and eight pods in a building, bringing the total to 66,000 servers.

"Generation 4 datacentres reduce the cost of adding the same capacity to the network fivefold, compared with generation 1 datacentres," said Bakken.

In addition, opex is reduced by 60 per cent, as there is no back office critical environment: it's all in the commoditised box.

As well as designing a modular datacentre, Microsoft has made the motherboard within the server more efficient by designing a common motherboard that fits into every server in collaboration with its partners.

Microsoft has reduced the components on the new motherboard by 30 per cent, and pulled off the BCI slots as well as the video mouse and DVD components. This means the board requires less cooling, and the basic motherboard can then be skewed in six ways by the product teams.

This move has reduced the cost of running servers in the datacentre by about 50 per cent, according to Bakken.

Generations 5 and 6 datacentres are now in the works: generation 5 has no spinning parts (fans or disks), and generation 6 is "completely green".

Bakken added that there are better ways of measuring efficiency in the datacentre than PUE: "One would be to measure application performance per watt; this is a much better way to look across application suites and providers.

"It means you can work closely with application developers. We need to get a discussion going within the industry regarding how best to measure efficiency."

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