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Microsoft donates server designs to Facebook's Open Compute Project

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Microsoft has donated a cloud server design specification to the Open Compute Project, the Facebook-led open source community for data center and hardware design.


Microsoft is the second web-scale data center operator to contribute its own hardware designs to OCP. Facebook became the first in 2011 when it formally announced the non-profit initiative.


The designs Microsoft has contributed is powering the core of its business today, Bill Laing, the company's corporate VP of cloud and enterprise, wrote in a blog post announcing the news. They are “the designs for the most advanced server hardware in Microsoft data centers delivering global cloud services like Windows Azure, Office 365, Bing and others,” he wrote.


In addition to the design specs, Microsoft is open sourcing the software code its engineers have written for hardware operations management. These are tasks such as server diagnostics, power supply and fan control.


The servers are optimized for Windows Server and can be up to 40% cheaper and 15% more power efficient than comparable traditional enterprise servers. They can also be deployed and serviced in half the time it takes to deploy and service industry-standard machines.


There is a corporate sustainability angle for Microsoft as well. “We also expect this server design to contribute to our environmental sustainability efforts by reducing network cabling by 1,100 miles and metal by 10,000 tons across our base of 1 million servers,” Laing wrote.


The company started managing its own data centers in 1989, Laing wrote. As of today, Microsoft has invested more than US$15bn in the infrastructure that supports its services.


While best known as a software company, Microsoft is one of the world's leaders in data center and hardware design. Like other companies of its scale that do business primarily through online services, it designs its facilities infrastructure and IT to optimize for the applications.


One of the latest approaches to data center capacity expansion Microsoft has come up with is the ITPAC approach. The company has container-like modules pre-manufactured and filled with servers before shipping them for quick installation at the data center site.


Laing will be speaking at the Open Compute Summit in Santa Clara, California, tomorrow. FOCUS will be covering the event, so come back to this site for more Open Compute news.

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  • Microsoft Research campus in Mountain View, California

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