Microsoft Reveals Data Centre Secrets And Joins Open Compute Project

The Open Compute Project (OCP), the Facebook-backed initiative that seeks to develop cheaper, more energy-efficient data centre designs, has scored another big name backer as Microsoft announced its officially backing.

Microsoft will contribute what it calls the “Microsoft cloud server specification” to the OCP, effectively allowing others to implement them, said Bill Laing, a vice from Microsoft’s cloud division,  in a blog posting on Monday – and again in a presentation at the Open Compute Project (OCP) Summit in San Jose, California on Tuesday.

Server Designs

In signing up to Open Compute, Microsoft is revealing to the world the server designs it uses in its own data centres that host its Windows Azure cloud service, its Bing search engine, Office365, and even its recently renamed cloud storage service OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive). Microsoft said that only it and Facebook have publicly released such server specifications.

“We are excited to participate in the OCP community and share our cloud innovation with the industry in order to foster more efficient data centers and the adoption of cloud computing,” wrote Laing in the blog post. “The Microsoft cloud server specification essentially provides the blueprints for the data centre servers we have designed to deliver the world’s most diverse portfolio of cloud services.”

Laing explained that these server designs are “optimised for Windows Server software and built to handle the enormous availability, scalability and efficiency requirements of Windows Azure”. Microsoft also said that its server designs provide ‘dramatic improvements over traditional enterprise server designs’. Indeed, Redmond claims that its designs provide up to 40 percent server cost savings, 15 percent power efficiency gains and 50 percent reduction in deployment and service times.

“We also expect this server design to contribute to our environmental sustainability efforts by reducing network cabling by 1,100 miles and metal by 10,000 tons across our base of 1 million servers,” wrote Laing.

Vast Expertise

Microsoft said the depth of information it is sharing with the OCP is  “unprecedented”. As part of this effort, it is also open sourcing the software code it created for the management of hardware operations, such as server diagnostics, power supply and fan control.

Microsoft explained that the specifications it is contributing to OCP reflect its long history in data centre architecture and cloud computing. Redmond explained that it first began managing its own data centres way back in 1989, and launched its first online service (MSN) in 1995. Laing revealed that the company has invested more than $15 billion (£9bn) in its cloud infrastructure and today offers more than 200 cloud services to 1 billion customers and 20 million businesses in more than 90 markets around the world.

“This effort aligns with our Cloud OS strategy. Microsoft is unique in the industry in that we offer cloud platforms, such as Windows Azure, as well as the software infrastructure for enterprise customers and partners to build their own clouds” wrote Laing. “As a result, we can continually take technology and best practices from our public cloud offerings, and build them into our private cloud solutions. It’s a virtuous cycle that enables a consistent hybrid cloud platform – a Cloud OS – spanning Windows Azure, partner clouds and customer data centres. That consistency gives customers more flexibility to move and manage enterprise applications across clouds, and more choice in the IT models that best fit their needs and budgets.”

The Open Compute Project was launched by Facebook in April 2011 in order to develop and promote “vanity-free” hardware designs that are highly efficient. These designs are then shared with the broader community. Since its launch, it has gathered some big name backers including Dell, Intel and HP, amongst many others.

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Originally published on eWeek.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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