Azure and Hardware


One of the cooler displays at PDC 2009 was a sample container that is something that is part of the Microsoft super data center strategy. To make Azure real, Microsoft has invested a ton into setting up the most state of the art data centers around the world. The idea is that Microsoft will provide a seamless means for customers to upload their applications, data, and capabilities to the cloud and leave the hardware, IT, and bandwidth management to them.

To meet these ends, Microsoft is building two rather significant data centers in each region of the world. Here is a video of the one in Chicago and some photos on one of the tours that someone took there.

Microsoft, for PDC 2009, wanted to show the development community what these data centers were like and instead of bringing the entire data center to Los Angeles, they did the next best thing and brought an entire container to the conference. The idea is that their data center has a rather modular setup and that these containers will be plugged in and run till a certain percentage of the servers fail and then they will interchange the faulty container for a new one. These containers are meant to be self running and self regulated.

It is interesting what the container has to do to regulate humidity and temperature.
** You can click on all the photos here to get a bigger view of them.


The container pulls in air through a series of air filters where the air then hits another type of filtered wall which gets water dropped through it to create a cool and humid means of keeping the contents of the container within a specific temperature and humidity level. This process is much like how the swamp-coolers of the mountain region of the United States have in a typical home. This air is then pulled through the server racks and then pulled out the back of the container. Though if things start getting too cooled, then the dampers in the upper part of the container open up a bit and let some of the air circulate back into the process thereby bringing the temperate back up to a level that they want.

Why so much focus on that temperature. Well, I was told the reason was that the server venders (which were Dell servers in this container) warranty the equipments only if it stays within a specific level of temperature and humidity. Here is a picture of some of these sensors:

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Here, the sensor on the left monitors humidity and temperature both. There were four of these sensors and they were at the top part of the container. The sensor in the right photo was just a temperature sensor and there were eight of these. They were evenly spaced out so that there were some near the floor and some in the middle of the server racks.


This is a view of the space between the swamp-cooler system wall (on the left) and the air filtration wall of the right. In this photo, the air would move from the right to the left through the container. Here is a close up photo of the air filter wall:


Here is a photo of the server racks in the container:

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Finally – here is the back side of the container. I’m not sure if the windows were for the display or if they are always there.

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I like engineering and this was a fun tour. It will be a while before I get one of these in my homes! :)

Follow me on Twitter at @billevjen

Microsoft PDC 2009 – Day Two Keynote

The second day keynote at PDC 2009 in Lost Angeles was shared by Steven Sinofsky and Scott Guthrie. Steven is the President of Windows and Windows Live Division and it really must have been a great day for him as he came out for the first time in a major conference with the new Windows 7 launched and the old Vista problems just fading away into Microsoft’s past. There is a lot of excitement for Windows 7 and there is excitement for the new Windows 7 APIs that are available for developers to work with to take advantage of the new features that this new OS offers.


The big thing that Steven brought forth was the achievement that was Windows 7’s release. He was rather excited about how they developed this OS. One of the big changes in the development process was the introduction of the Windows 7 Engineering blog. This was a tool that the Windows 7 used to let people know what they were thinking and how things were going to work. The team got considerable comments from this blog and it helped shape what they were doing. For me, I did find it interesting in how open they were to their process and how they got the community involved in the process. I can see how that would be hard to do given the fact that Microsoft probably doesn’t want to give much information to their competitors on what they are doing. But they put out quite a bit of information that in the end – really made a difference.

There were also some interesting stats on the Win7 development process that Steven outlined. These included:

  • 1,729,890 people pressed the send feedback reports button
  • 91,521 external devices were plugged in
  • 14,057 unique printers were plugged in
  • 883,612 unique applications were used
  • 8,107,258 installations were done
  • 4,357156 installations of the RC were done
  • 10,427,189 aggregated Windows Error Reports were sent in
  • 4,753 code changes were made because of these WERs
  • 6,114 SQM Measurement Points
  • ~900,000,000 SQM Sessions (Logon to Logoff/Standby)
  • 514,253,176 times the Start menu button was clicked in the last 6 months
  • 46,447,784 times Aero Snap and Shake were used

It is important to note that these stats are only collected during the pre-RTM releases and are not something that Microsoft collects off of the production release of the OS.

After this, Steven then went through some hardware with another Microsoft worker and in the end help up a laptop – a not yet released Acer Aspire 1420P. It had the following stats: it is a convertible TabletPC with a Core2 Duo U2300 processor, Mobile Intel GS45 video, 2GB of DDR3 1066 MHz memory (supports up to 8GB), an 11.6" 1366x768 multitouch screen, webcam/mic, 3G WWAN, WLAN (supporting up to Draft-N), S/PDIF for digital speakers, 3 USB, 250GB HDD, card reader, and even an HDMI port. Then he said he was offering us a deal on the laptop for the price of FREE!

I was totally shocked! Here is me with my new laptop:


I see why Microsoft did this. They just introduced all the cool features that you can do with the new Windows 7 APIs including multitouch and more. Most developers don’t even have computers to deal with this or some of the other capabilities. If Microsoft really wants development in this space, there isn’t a better way to spur the development than by giving some of your community’s best developers the equipment to get the job done? Perfect.

image Next up was ScottGu – all .NET developer’s hero. He continued on with the day 1 keynote message from Ray Ozzie and talked about the Silverlight everywhere message. The biggest message was the release of Silverlight 4 Beta. This is now available and includes a plethora of new features. These new features include things like:

  • Media
    • Continuing to invest in the rich media stack
    • Media stack is by far the most feature rich of any media stack out there
    • Winter Olympics will be coming on Silverlight
    • Adding
      • Webcam and microphone
      • Multicast
      • H.264 Output Protection
      • Offline DRM
  • Business Applications
    • Printing
    • Rich Text
    • Clipboard Access
    • Right click
    • Mouse wheel
    • Implicit styles
    • VS 2010
    • Drag/Drop
    • Bidi & RTL - Right to left layout
    • Updated Controls
    • Data Binding - Support for string formatters
    • Networking
  • Beyond the Browser
    • Windowing APIs
    • Notification Popups
    • HTML Support
    • Drop Target
  • Trusted applications
    • Custom Window Chrome
    • Local File System
    • Cross-Site Networking
    • Full Screen Keyboard
    • Hardware Device Access
    • COM Automation Support
    • Office Integration

As you can see, there is a lot to this release! Though, as Ray Ozzie really said in the first keynote – this PDC was really about touching the “three screens” – mobile, PC, and TV&game console, etc. Ray pointed out that Silverlight was the technology to get you there and Scott spent his keynote really showcasing Silverlight and its future in this regards. Again, it is interesting to note that there wasn’t any mention of WPF and it’s role in this revolution.