Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The latest Azure data centers

Even with the advances found in Generation 2 data centers, companies couldn’t find the efficiencies and scale needed to combat rising facility costs, let alone meet the demands that the cloud would generate. The density of the data center needed to go up dramatically, and the costs of operations had to plummet. The first Generation 3 data center, located in Chicago, Illinois, went online on June 20, 2009. Microsoft considers
it to be a mega data center, which is a class designation that defines how large the data center is. The Chicago data center looks like a large parking deck, with parking spaces and ramps for tractor trailers. Servers are placed into containers, called CBlox, which are parked in this structure. A smaller building that looks more like a traditional data center is also part of the complex. This area is for high-maintenance workloads that can’t run in Azure.

CBlox are made out of the shipping containers that you see on ocean-going vessels and on eighteen wheelers on the highways. They’re sturdily built and follow a standard size and shape that are easy to move around. One CBlox can hold anywhere from 1,800 to 2,500 servers. This is a massive increase in data-center density, 10 times more dense than a traditional data center. The Chicago mega data center holds about 360,000 servers and is the only primary consumer of a dedicated nuclear power plant core run by Chicago Power & Light. How many of your data centers are nuclear powered?

Each parking spot in the data center is anchored by a refrigerator-size device that acts as the primary interconnect to the rest of the data center. Microsoft developed a standard coupler that provides power, cooling, and network access to the container. Using this interconnect and the super-dense containers, massive amounts of capacity can be added in a matter of hours. Compare how long it would take your company to plan, order, deploy, and configure 2,500 servers. It would take at least a year, and a lot of people, not to mention how long it would take to recycle all the cardboard and extra parts you always seem to have after racking a server. Microsoft’s goal with this strategy is to make it as cheap and easy as possible to expand capacity as demand increases.

The containers are built to Microsoft’s specifications by a vendor and delivered on site, ready for burn-in tests and allocation into the fabric. Each container includes networking gear, cooling infrastructure, servers, and racks, and is sealed against the weather.

Not only are the servers now packaged and deployed in containers, but the necessary generators and cooling machinery are designed to be modular as well. To set up an edge data center, one that’s located close to a large-demand population, all that’s needed is the power and network connections, and a level paved surface. The trucks with the power and cooling equipment show up first, and the equipment is deployed. Then the trucks with the computing containers back in and drop their trailers, leaving the containers on the wheels that were used to deliver them. The facility is protected by a secure wall and doorway with monitoring equipment. The use of laser fences is pure speculation and just a rumor, as far as we know. The perimeter security is important, because the edge data center doesn’t have a roof! Yes, no roof! Not using a roof reduces the construction time and the cooling costs. A roof isn’t needed because the containers are completely sealed.

Microsoft opened a second mega data center, the first outside the United States, in Dublin, Ireland, on July 1, 2009. When Azure became commercially available in January 2010, the following locations were known to have an Azure data center: Texas, Chicago, Ireland, Amsterdam, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Although Microsoft won’t tell where all its data centers are for security reasons, it purports to have more than 10 and fewer than 100 data centers. Microsoft already has data centers all over the world to support its existing services, such as Virtual Earth, Bing Search, Xbox Live, and others. If we assume there are only 10, and each one is as big as Chicago, then Microsoft needs to manage 3.5 million servers as part of Azure. That’s a lot of work.

Source of Information : Manning Azure in Action 2010
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