Blog Post

Inside Microsoft's Internet Infrastructure & Its Plans For The Future

A few minutes after she delivered a speech at our Structure 08 conference in San Francisco, I caught up with Microsoft’s corporate VP of global foundation services, Debra Chrapaty, for a video chat. I think a more appropriate title for her would be Mr. Softie’s Internet Infrastructure Czar. I found her very knowledgeable, engaging and open with her opinions. “We have some new innovations up our sleeve that are going to knock the socks of anything anyone is doing, including our friends down south,” she told me. She didn’t name Google, of course, but we all know who she was talking about. [digg=]

Her candor was one of the reasons I wanted decided to share the video with you guys. The common theme of the conversation: Microsoft is spending liberally to build out its Internet infrastructure, including upgrading its backbone network and scaling out its data center infrastructure by adding new technologies.

When I asked her exactly how much Microsoft was spending on it, she dodged the question, saying just that it was a big number. This much we do know: Two years ago, the company was spending close to $2 billion on its infrastructure; it has since undertaken the development of six data centers, with parts of two networks already online.

Facts About Microsoft-Owned Data Centers
Adding 10,000 servers a month
New data centers being planned/under construction are equivalent of over 15 US football fields of data center space.
Plans to cut of 30% to 40% in data-center power costs company-wide over the next two years.
Current network backbone runs at about 100 gigabits per second, but soon Microsoft plans to bump it to 500 Gigabits. I think this could be big for Level 3, long time partner of Microsoft.
Building out its own CDN (Edge) network – 99 nodes on a 100 gigabit per second backbone.
For Microsoft, total data grows ten times every three years. The data in near future will soon approach 100s of petabytes. This includes data from all of their online services.
Source: Microsoft, GigaOM
Location Status
Quincy, Washington Opened April 2007, construction continues
When complete, it will consume 48 megawatts of energy. Microsoft can tap up to 72 MW of energy coming from hydro power. Microsoft is paying about 1.8 cents per kilowatt, but will rise to between 2.6-to-2.9 cents per kilowatt as more capacity goes online. Two data centers in this location.
San Antonio, Texas Under Construction, planned opening September 2008
It will be 447,000 square feet on 44 acres. Microsoft is building two data centers here
Dublin, Ireland Under Construction
first Windows Live data center outside the U.S.
Northlake, Illinois Under Construction, Phase one to go live in October 2008
The first floor of this facility is going to be entirely made of containers and would house Microsoft search.
Iowa TBD
Source: Microsoft

Watch the video to get the full low-down, but if you’re in a hurry, here are some highlights, including her quotes from our conversation.

  • “We are building data centers but I don’t want to say not just data centers. We are already on to our second generation data centers. More utilization, better density and more power efficient.” For Chrapaty, power efficiency is not just talk, it’s her mission — she is the driving force behind Microsoft’s server utilization.
  • “Infrastructure is a differentiator. I use FedEx as an example. They are world’s most predominant distribution company. It wasn’t that they had a great brand or they had all these plans. No, what they did was find these strategic landing fields where they could get in and out quickly to key distribution points across the globe. It defined their company. I think the same is true in the infrastructure now. Data centers are already becoming a scarce resource.” Google realized this a long time ago; Microsoft is now demonstrating how it can put money to work and build an advantage over others.
  • Like Google, Microsoft is taking the design of servers into its own hands. “We are doing some unique things in the mother board designs, server designs, and because we are Microsoft, operating systems.”
  • She’s a big champion of container data centers, which essentially act like the trailers on long-haul trucks, optimized and packed with all sorts of gear — servers, switches, storage systems — that’s wheeled in and plugged into the power grid and the network. Sounds like Rackable Systems and Verari are major suppliers of these containers to Microsoft; the company is making extensive use of them in their Chicago facility.
  • Her comments indicate that Microsoft has plans to offer managed services to large corporations.
  • She lets us know first that they are building a IOWA data center, which is huge for Iowa. Google has one in Iowa too.

36 Responses to “Inside Microsoft's Internet Infrastructure & Its Plans For The Future”

  1. The term “cargo cult” comes to mind when I hear about all of these datacenters. The typical MS thinking seems to go that if we build them, the customers will come.

  2. Crap !
    Its like adding salt to their wounds. Why does a failed web initiative lead to this, i am not sure. But interestingly its like a new business, maybe. We will give you computing power, pay us for maintaining that .. how long will that work !
    Soon computing will get cheaper and cheaper, why would someone pay to manage their data, a big company will have their own data centers !
    And for gods sake dont increase the carbon footprint, i know you have money, but this is nothing more than show of strength !

  3. Thomas

    Oh lord, here is someone with an outsized budget. She’s excited about containers?! That’s her “next gen” datacenter? I could do this with crayons. How do I get overpaid so that I can buy wacky outfits? I gotta get me one of those jobs…

  4. rh mayo

    Reactive to the company in the South is innovation for Microsoft. What else have they cadged from somewhere else to wrap up their innovation hype??

  5. If they are spending $2B on internet infrastructure without being able to tell us what they intend to do with it, you have to wonder. Sometimes companies this large spend such money simply because they have it to spend and not because they have a brilliant new idea. It is innovation that creates value on the internet, and innovation is hard to buy.

  6. Let's see in 18 months

    > [Microsoft is] going to knock the socks of anything
    > anyone is doing, including [Google]

    This goes under my ‘Predictions’ bookmark folder .. for great justice.

  7. Good interview. InfoWeek just did a good cloud overwiew coming out of their 2.0 event — here’s the paget that talks about Microsoft, and how they used to lease data centers but now building:

    FWIW, I thought Kara Swisher’s coverage of your Structure event was very flippant in tone. She came across as knowing very little about tech.

  8. ralphg

    well i know that she hinted a budget bigger than 2 billion $$$s. Now that’s pretty clear indication from a company that is not known for straight talk.

    I think if you look at the interview, she shares a lot, including the first time news about her IOWA plans, which is a scoop.

  9. How does…

    > Her candor was one of the reasons I wanted decided to share the video…

    Relate to…

    > When I asked her exactly how much Microsoft was spending on it, she dodged the question…

    How is dodging questions the mark of candor?

  10. So Google builds out data center infrastructure, optimizes the linux kernel, and builds its own servers, and operates ad platform based on auctions, and the only thing MS can come up with that is different is a glorified shopping comparison engine masquerading as search engine?

    Pathetic. All but a handful of VCs tend to do the same, only back ideas and technology that is proven to be working already. Market dominance doesn’t work that way on the web. Me-too/ table-stakes will just keep the head above water.

  11. chanak

    Bunch of bull, have been with Mr. Soft for a year in the relevant group..and all I can say is they are going nowhere with their search, ad strategies and partnering efforts. Too much chaos, too many egos running like chickens with their heads cut off, too many ex-consultants ;-) well, since when did suits innovate?! Mr. Soft =/= online business. Those data centers could have been bomb shelters a few decades back, not now.

  12. call me a pedant, but when someone who says they’ve been in the data centre business for 20 years mixes up watts with kilowatts, it always strikes me as a little dodgy.

    But maybe that’s just me….