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9/22/2008
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Microsoft Opens $550 Million Data Center In San Antonio

The data center is one of a network of massive facilities being built to support Microsoft's push to offer cloud services.

Microsoft has opened the doors of its $550 million, 477,000-square-foot data center in San Antonio, the company announced Monday. The new data center is one of a network of massive facilities being built to support Microsoft's push to offer cloud services, and will help host a number of applications such as Hotmail, Microsoft.com, and Windows Live Messenger.

The new data center employs a number of new strategies to make it more manageable, scalable, and energy efficient. For example, ubiquitous sensors track information including temperature, CPU utilization, and humidity and report back to Microsoft's internally developed data center management tool called Scry. The facility also receives a large supply of nuclear and wind energy and recycles water liberally.

"The San Antonio facility is the most power-efficient data center we’ve ever built, using 602,000 gallons of recycled waste water a day to cool the facility during peak cooling months," Mike Manos, Microsoft's general manager of data center services, said in a recent e-mail interview. Still, there are more gains to be made for Microsoft in terms of data center efficiency and the company's next data center, opening in Dublin, may up the ante.

An InformationWeek tour of the San Antonio facility earlier this year underlined the scale of Microsoft's efforts. The massive building is about the size of 10 football fields, at the peak of construction required 965 full-time employees to build it, and actually contains two identical side-by-side data centers separated for security and reliability. Seven backup-power rooms contain almost 1,000 batteries apiece. It's a 1.3-mile walk around the entire building.

Microsoft used a "heat map" process that takes into consideration more than 30 factors of a locality's feasibility for data centers, landing on San Antonio for reasons ranging from the availability of fiber optic networks to affordable energy rates. This also isn't the only major data center investment in San Antonio. Rackspace announced last year it would spend about $100 million to relocate its headquarters to the site of a former San Antonio mall; the company said it hoped to create more than 4,000 new jobs within five years of the headquarters' completion.

There's an industry-wide land grab for good data centers. Last week alone, IBM announced a new data center in Dublin and Cisco a new one in Bahrain, while Switch and Data leased a large facility in Atlanta. Microsoft is building several other data centers, including one in Chicago that will use shipping containers filled with servers, and another in Iowa announced last month.

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