From a tech industry standpoint, one big side effect of the software as a service (SaaS) movement will be the build-out of massive data centers capable of scaling to handle ever-growing user traffic. That doesn’t sound so green now, does it?
No wonder Google refuses to reveal just how much power its operations consume on a worldwide basis. In all fairness, arch-rival Microsoft also holds certain information related to its data centers pretty close to the vest. But the big Seattle-based software developer was eager to trumpet its move last month to invest about $500 million in a major data center located in Northlake, Ill.
The facility, being developed by green data center design expert Ascent in partnership with real estate company The Koman Group, will be Microsoft’s single largest data center when it comes online in the June 2008 timeframe.
Mike Manos, senior director for the Microsoft Data Center operation, said the Chicago area was an interesting location for several reasons. For one, it offers all sorts of cold air cooling options in the winter months (a process known as airside economization). What’s more, it’s a major fibre-optic hub. “From our perspective, the landlord had really identified a great area to build a data center on,” he says.
Phil Horstmann, CEO of Ascent, says his company looks at each data center as an intersection of a lot of vitally important utilities—namely power, water and connectivity. The Northlake facility will feature a number of design innovations, such as an arrangement to tie right into nearby electricity transmission lines. Because Chicago is a deregulated market, his company can buy from 15 different utility companies.
The Northlake site was actually intended as a multi-tenant operation, but Manos said the 550,00 square-foot facility was so compelling that Microsoft opted to increase its footprint in the area. Eventually, tens of thousands of servers will be located there.
Vince DiMemmo, chief strategy officer for Ascent, says that Chicago was recently identified as the best location in the United States to locate a data center, because of its low carbon footprint. DiMemmo’s perspective is informed by a survey conducted last summer by Base Partners (a data center design consultant) and Glumac. I can’t find the original data, but it was well covered in this article by ComputerWorld. The story actually is a really interesting overview of great data center locations, focusing on 20 U.S. cities. After Chicago, the two top locations are Quincy, Wash. (where Microsoft also has centered another data center) and Westport, Pa.