Dell Builds Microsoft’s Efficient ‘Microsite’ Data Centre


Dell’s ‘microsite’ housing Microsoft’s Bing Maps uses evaporative cooling and fresh-air for greater efficiency

Dell officials are touting the data centre “microsite” they created for Microsoft’s Bing Maps business as an example of what can be done in building a high-performance environment that is also highly efficient.

Dell, in conjunction with networking vendor Mellanox Technologies, created the microsite – a modular compartmentalised solution within a data centre site created for a specific workload – that offers 100 percent fresh-air and evaporative-cooling technology to drive up the efficiency of the facility and reach a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of 1.03.

Efficient, scalable environment

PUE is a way of measuring how much of the power coming into the site is actually used by the computing equipment, rather than for such purposes as cooling. The goal is a PUE of 1.0.

Dell and Microsoft officials, in announcing the site 28 July, said the goal at the outset of the project was to create a highly efficient and scalable computing environment that could be built quickly and cost effectively.

“They were maniacally focused on efficiency… and focused on the timeline,” David Hardy, modular data centre marketing manager for Dell’s DCS (Data centre Solutions) unit.

The site was built to support image processing for Bing Maps, including the high-resolution imagery for Microsoft’s Global Ortho Project, according to Brad Clark, group program manager for Bing Maps imagery technologies at Microsoft. The Global Ortho Project was started last year as a way to create one-foot aerial blanket coverage – initially of the continental United States and Western Europe – for the Bing Maps platform and consumer website.

The microsite, in Boulder, Colorado, also supports imagery processing for such Bing Maps features as Streetside and Bird’s Eye aerial and satellite images.

Pushing boundaries

“Our goal was to push technological boundaries, to build a cost-effective and efficient microsite,” Clark said in a statement. “We ended-up with a no-frills, high-performance microsite to deliver complicated geospatial applications that can in effect ‘quilt’ different pieces of imagery into a cohesive mosaic that everyone can access.”

It took Dell’s DSC group less than four months to build the site, from the time the land was cleared to when the facility began operations, according to Dell’s Hardy. The microsite uses a combination of Dell PowerEdge servers and other data centre products and Mellanox’s InfiniBand networking technology.

The fresh-air and evaporative-cooling technology feeds into a growing trend of businesses looking for ways to cool their data centre equipment without using chiller units, which are expensive to buy and expensive to run. Recent data centre deployments by such companies as Google and Yahoo are driving the shift away from chillers and toward a greater reliance on fresh air for cooling

Dell officials on 28 July also touted the concept of fresh-air cooling in another way. The company said it will warranty some server, networking and storage devices at up to 113 degrees for short periods of time; this is higher than the normal 95 degrees. The move gives data centre managers running those products more leeway in deciding when to put the chillers on, and when to opt for more fresh-air cooling.

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