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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:

image  image


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:

Microsoft PDC 2009 044

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.

Microsoft PDC 2009 050

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

Posted on Friday, November 20, 2009 12:38 AM Reviews | Back to top

Comments on this post: Azure and Hardware

# re: Azure and Hardware
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Nice overview Bill, definitely interesting to see
Left by Chris Hammond on Nov 20, 2009 4:21 AM

# re: Azure and Hardware
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Love the pictures but can you remove the video link to Microsoft Showcase. The video was terrible. Very slow in both Silverlight and wmv. No audio and it made it look like the site isn't ready. If my clients see it, we can forget them signing on to Azure. They will walk out the door and head to Amazon S3.
Left by James Wallis Martin on Nov 22, 2009 8:03 PM

# re: Azure and Hardware
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Certainly looks as though Microsoft have made it much easier for terrorists to take out a whole bunch of people data in one hit
Left by Ian Johnston on Nov 22, 2009 8:44 PM

# re: Azure and Hardware
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@Ian: No they didn't.
Left by Rabo on Nov 23, 2009 4:49 AM

# re: Azure and Hardware
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What would you want one of these for?

Before you reach the half life of your career you'll be able to get an iMac server with a 1024 core cobalt-diamond CPU that will run on lemon juice and host VMs that will eclipse the capacity of this Eniac room size moth trap.

Its cute, like other people's kids at Thanksgiving. Getting invited aboard the Octopus for a long ride, now thats something to fantasize about.

Please publish a book about integrating AJAX & Silverlight (versions). If you could describe how one can author quality software that doesn't deprecate or expire every time Microsoft pops out a .Net version, OS, language and language revision, I would be very interested.
Left by Barbarella on Nov 28, 2009 1:28 PM

# re: Azure and Hardware
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Ian honey,

The cloud is, by definition and allegorical metaphor, distributed. Imagine a data center like this one distributed at geodesic centers 1500 km apart, for optimal access speed. The total multiple redundancy implies that you would have to disable more than 70% of the facilities in order to diminish data access, and this only until it can be recovered from backup.

As long as sidekick isn't managing the back up...
Left by Barbarella on Nov 28, 2009 1:39 PM

# re: Azure and Hardware
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I think that Azure hardware woks perfectly with dll search programs.All DLLs (Dynamic Linked or Loaded Library) are not created equal. As the name implies, these files are dynamically loaded and are associated with an executable program or even other DLL files at run-time. What does this mean for you? Essentially, DLL files are basic resource files that are shared between all kinds of different programs. They are passed around and used as necessary, and might be employed by with dozens of different programs. Run.dll, for example, is a key file with many different software applications.

Left by ankhkare on Oct 16, 2010 2:02 AM

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