Microsoft is opening a new cloud-computing data center region in Georgia in the US, as part of a wider move to expand its presence in Atlanta that will effectively make the area the company's third largest hub in the country after Puget Sound and Silicon Valley.
Named "East US 3", the data center region will extend across Fulton and Douglas Counties, providing Microsoft Azure cloud services to customers in the immediate region, but also in the rest of the US and around the world.
The region will deliver an Azure Availability Zone, which means that data centers located in different physical sites across the region will each be equipped with independent power, cooling and networking. Customers' data can, therefore, be better protected, thanks to zone availability, against data center outages or unplanned downtime.
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Microsoft's corporate vice president of cloud operations and innovation, Noelle Walsh, said in a blog post that the new region comes as demand for digital services keeps increasing. "We're continuing to see growing interest and use cases across industries and sectors to use Microsoft's cloud services for remote work, collaboration and innovation to drive greater business efficiencies," she said, vouching that the region will deliver "world-class data security and privacy" as well as faster access to services.
The latest research from analysis firm Gartner shows that up to 70% of organizations using cloud services today plan to increase their cloud spending, as the COVID-19 pandemic forces businesses to digitize at speed. Worldwide spending on public cloud services is forecast to grow more than 18% in 2021, to reach almost $305 billion.
East US 3 will be a large-scale project, said Microsoft, and will require careful planning to make sure that operations in the region meet the company's commitments to sustainability. Georgia was picked as a location after considering the area's capacity to provide reliable and stable power sources, but also affordable and clean energy.
Like many big tech companies, Microsoft has pledged to make its operations greener throughout the next decade. By 2025, the company is planning to shift to 100% renewable energy in all of its data centers, buildings and campuses. The switch will contribute to meeting Microsoft's longer-term target: to be carbon-negative by 2030, and more ambitiously, to have removed from the atmosphere by 2050 all the carbon the company has emitted since it was founded in 1975.
More recently, Microsoft also announced that it will be "water positive" in all of its direct operations by 2030, meaning that the firm will reduce the volume of water it uses, but also put back water in stressed basins to replenish more water than it consumes on a global basis.
These objectives will be included in the designs of the Redmond giant's new data center region. "We will expand our presence with world-class environmental sustainability," said Microsoft president Brad Smith. "We are committed to being a carbon-negative, water-positive, zero-waste company by 2030. We will engrain these commitments into our designs in the region with a focus on zero carbon, renewable energy, minimal water, zero waste and resilient strategies."
Microsoft recently announced a new data center region in Sweden, and vowed that the project would be among the company's most advanced and sustainable ones to date. For example, data center operators in the region will use a new technology developed by Vattenfall, which will enable them to see, on an hour-by-hour basis, if the building's demand for electricity is matched by supply from renewable energy sources.
This year will also see Microsoft building a new sustainable data center in Arizona, which will become the firm's West US 3 region. The building, said Microsoft, will use zero water for cooling for more than half of the year, and use outside air instead. When temperatures are too high, an evaporative cooling system will be used, which uses a fraction of water used by traditional systems. At the same time, Microsoft will invest in water conservation projects aiming to recharge water levels in the area.
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Few details were released concerning the technologies and designs that might drive sustainability in Microsoft's new region in Georgia; but on top of building data centers, the firm is also adding office space in Atlanta and purchasing more land to house a future campus.
The announcement will most likely be followed by others as Microsoft keeps increasing its global cloud presence. To date, the company has announced more than 60 data center regions across the world, each comprising multiple data centers.
"Data centers are part of today's critical infrastructure – providing reliable and scalable compute power for online transactions, conference calls, virtual classrooms, supply chain and inventory management, internet searches, and much more around the world," said Walsh. "We are continuing to build our cloud infrastructure to support the growing demand for cloud services for business continuity, innovation, and collaboration."