In the years to come, Microsoft's data centres may not be huge buildings tightly packed with server racks, but rather rows of small, stand-alone IT units spread across acres and acres of cool, cheap land. Microsoft data centre general manager Kevin Timmons has outlined some prototype work his unit is doing to design its next generation of data centres, in collaboration with Microsoft Research.
The company is field-testing something Timmons calls IT PACs, or IT preassembled components, which are small, self-contained units that are assembled off-site and can be linked together to build out an entire data centre. Microsoft, he said, is facing the same challenges as most data centre operators. It needs the ability to ramp up capacity in short order, but would like to avoid the massive up-front costs and long lead times required to build out traditional data centres. Given this set of conditions, Microsoft's goal for building its next set of data centres is "ultra-modularity," Timmons said.