Where is the Microsoft Cloud?

Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure

The vast worldwide network of datacentres

As the engine that powers Microsoft’s cloud services, the Cloud Infrastructure and Operations group focuses on smart growth, high reliability, operational excellence, cost-effectiveness, environmental sustainability, and a trustworthy online experience for customers and partners worldwide.

Microsoft delivers the core infrastructure and foundational technologies for over 200 of Microsoft’s online businesses including Bing, MSN, Office 365, Xbox Live, Skype, OneDrive and the Windows Azure platform. Their infrastructure is comprised of a large global portfolio of more than 100 datacenters and 1 million servers, content distribution networks, edge computing nodes, and fiber optic networks. Their portfolio is built and managed by a team of subject matter experts working 24x7x365 to support services for more than 1 billion customers and 20 million businesses in over 90 countries worldwide.

For an insight into how the Microsoft Cloud began, how it has evolved, and how it plays a role in your day to day life, please download the PDF of the transcript below, or feel free to watch the original video.

Video Transcript

Where is the Microsoft Cloud?

In reality it exists in the vast worldwide network of datacentres that provide the foundation for a wide array of online services. When you use one of these services, for example to do a search query on Bing, your request travels from your PC or mobile phone across the internet connected by an extensive global fibre optic network through Microsoft’s content delivery network nodes, moving at the speed of light to a datacentre that executes the query and returns the results all in the fraction of a second.

Microsoft’s Cloud is comprised of the globally distributed datacentre infrastructure supporting over 200 online services. More than a billion customers and 20 million businesses in over 70 countries use these services each year.

The video above will give you a tour of a few of Microsoft’s datacenters and show you how their global foundation services team, the team that designs, builds, operates and secures our cloud infrastructure is delivering high availability and reliability; high efficiency; smart scalability; a secure, private, trusted cloud and sustainability in all our facilities worldwide.

A bit of background

Microsoft has been operating datacenters since 1989 and this is an area where Microsoft continues to make significant strategic investments. From 1989 to 2004 their datacenters were built to address early computer systems that required controlled temperature environments in which to operate. From 2004 to 2007 they began to design their own large facilities to provide their online services with a range of solutions for more rapid deployment and more efficient operations. In 2007 they opened their first Generation 2 datacentre in Quincy Washington which began to change the industries standards for large scale internet datacenters.

Today the facility is approximately the size of 10 football fields and houses tens of thousands of high performance processing and storage servers and high density racks that are separated by hot and cool air aisles on a traditional raised floor. Chillers and air handling equipment ensure precise control over environmental conditions. Uninterruptable power supplies (UPS systems) and vast banks of batteries ensure our electricity remains continuous in the event of a short term power disruption. Emergency generators provide backup power for extended outages and for planned maintenance and can operate the datacentre with onsite fuel reserves in the event of a natural disaster. A high speed robust fibre optic network connects this datacentre with other major hubs and internet users. Edge compute nodes hosts workloads closer to the end users to reduce latency, provide geo-redundancy, and increase overall service resiliency. A team of engineers work around the clock to help ensure services are persistently available to customers. This facility is powered 100% by renewable hydro power.

Evolving Datacentres for the Modern Business

To deliver cloud computing services for global businesses and consumers within a very cost effective and sustainable operation, they evolved their datacentre design strategy. Traditional datacenters take from 18-24 months to build. With Microsoft’s modular approach, they worked to reduce costs and deployment time while increasing overall efficiency and sustainability.

The first modular computing units – and going green!

In 2009 they opened their Chicago datacentre which spans approximately 10 football fields in size. It is a Generation 3 facility and was their first deployment of modular computing units to dramatically reduce infrastructure costs and the time to deploy large volumes of compute power. They used standard shipping containers to house up to 2400 servers that were trucked onsite and plugged into power, water and networking infrastructure already in place. This enabled them to scale out capacity to meet customer demands for services within hours versus weeks and significantly reduce packaging materials, transportation waste and carbon emissions.

Another green IT approach is the use of waterside economization which enables them to cool the facility without requiring the high levels of electricity typically needed to power large chillers. Power usage effectiveness (PUE) is the measure of total datacentre power consumption divided by IT (or critical power) and highlights how much power is consumed by supporting infrastructure versus the power to operate servers.

A typical industry datacentre has a PUE of approximately 2.0 where the amount of energy consumed for the facilities supporting infrastructure equals the energy to power the servers. This award winning datacentre has a PUE from 1.15 – 1.22 for the containers in the facility.

Also in 2009, they further developed the containment approach to deliver additional efficiencies in their Dublin Generation 3 facility. This facility spans approximately 7 football fields in size and deploys large scaled compute capacity contained in pods of servers cooled by airside economization. Air handling units on the roof draw in cold outside air to provide the cooling for the servers and facility. Evaporative coolers vaporizing water into the air to absorb heat and an air bypassing feature improves operational efficiency and maintains constant room temperature, regardless of outdoor conditions.

The facility uses less than 1% of the annual water consumption of a traditional datacentre.

Their Dublin facility maintains a PUE of 1.25 and improves energy efficiency by approximately 50% as compared to their traditional datacenters of similar capacity.

Challenging the Status Quo – Generation 4

In 2010 they began to build their first Generation 4 datacentre design, building on the Dublin experience using airside economization into a truly modular design. This technologically advanced facility challenged every industry design standard to significantly reduce water and power use, and it uniquely demonstrates how they have evolved their approach. Their Generation 4 facility utilizes air cooled IT pre-manufactured components (IT packs). These state of the art pre-assembled plug and play modular components can be manufactured in many locations through a dynamic supply chain of globally distributed vendors and use recyclable materials such as steel and aluminum which are then shipped onsite and assembled.

IT packs allow rapid commissioning of additional compute capacity as the business needs it reducing the typical two-year construction timeframe in half and reducing capital costs by 30-50% over the lifetime of the facility.

The IT packs also provide self-contained UPS along with air handling and evaporative cooling systems to control ambient temperatures with 4 cooling modes to ensure the inlet temperatures maintained between 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit and 20-80% relative humidity. This simple recyclable metal building provides shelter from weather and directs proper airflow through all systems. This approach enables us to deliver PUEs of 1.15-1.2 across the facility and energy is provided from 100% renewable hydropower.

Availability above all

Operational excellence and services reliability comprise Microsoft’s highest priorities. They ensure high availability through advanced monitoring and incident response, service support and backup failover capability managed through their geographically distributed Microsoft operations centres, operating 24/7x365. They also deploy one of the largest implementations of Microsoft systems centre in the world and use their own data repository, called Scry, to record power consumption and allow precise costs allocation to their internal business groups.

In addition, their network is one of the largest in the world, with a fibre optic and content distribution network backbone connecting Microsoft’s datacenters and edge nodes to ensure high performance and reliability. A large geographical distributed footprint of datacenters enables them to be close to customers to reduce network latency and allow for geo-redundant backup and failover.

Datacentre Security

Security at the datacentres employs outer and inner perimeters with increasing security at each level, utilizing a combination of technology and traditional physical measures. Technical elements include two factor access control, badge readers, extensive camera monitoring and integrated alarm systems. Traditional measures can include perimeter fencing, security officers and locked server racks.

Data secured in Microsoft’s datacenters is classified based on its value and protected accordingly. For example, hard drives with highly sensitive information are routinely destroyed when they are decommissioned. They also limit access to facilities and servers to only those individuals who have valid business needs. In addition to maintaining best in class operations processes, they routinely bring in third parties to verify their capabilities, resulting in ISO and PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) certifications, SSAE 72 type II attestations and FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) certification and accreditation.

The infrastructure behind the cloud

Microsoft’s award winning cloud infrastructure powers the cloud services their customers and partners use every day, so the next time you search on Bing, expand your customer services with Azure, communicate with employees be it via Office 365 or challenge your friends across the world on XBOX Live, you too are tapping into the power of the Microsoft Cloud.

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