Microsoft to reveal data-center server designs that save cash

Businesses with large data centers stand to net big savings in capital, power, deployment and maintenance costs if they follow server blueprints being made public by Microsoft.

The company plans to open-source a cloud server design that it says uses 15% less power than traditional enterprise servers and a 40% cost savings vs. those commercial alternatives.

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The company says today that it is joining the Open Compute Project Foundation (OCP) and revealing specs and documentation for Microsoft's most advanced data-center hardware that supports its Windows Azure, Office 365 and Bing cloud services.

"[The servers] offer dramatic improvements over traditional enterprise server designs: up to 40 percent server cost savings, 15 percent power efficiency gains and 50 percent reduction in deployment and service times," says Bill Laing, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President for Cloud and Enterprise in the Official Microsoft Blog. "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 made the announcement at the Open Compute Project Summit in San Jose.

The company is releasing its software for managing the hardware including diagnosing server problems, controlling fans and power supply, Laing says.

The server design includes a 12U chassis that includes power and networking connections, eliminating need for network cabling, according to Microsoft's Data Center Blog written by Kushagra Vaid, Microsoft's general manager for Server Engineering.

Each chassis shares power, fans, a signaling backplane and a system-on-a-chip management card. The chassis design featuring trays that slide in and out results in the potential to cut deployment and service times in half, Vaid says.

Microsoft isn't the first big cloud provider to join OCP. Facebook chairs the organization, and other major companies on the board include RackSpace, Arista and Intel.

The specifics of what Microsoft will make public:

Hardware specifications: server, mezzanine card, tray, chassis, and management card; management APIs and protocols for chassis and server.

Mechanical CAD models: chassis, server, chassis manager, and mezzanines.

Gerber files: Management card, power distribution board and tray backplane.

Source code for chassis infrastructure:server management, fan and power supply control, diagnostics and repair policy.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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