IEEE Spectrum has an interesting article online about mega-datacenters and whether a million server datacenter is possible in the near future. It describes the efforts of the major players in this space. They describe some of the attributes of Microsoft’s Quincy and Chicago datacenters as well as several others.
Last year I had the opportunity to tour one of Microsoft’s smaller datacenters (“only” 45,000 servers) with a couple of our customers. The scale of the facilities and supporting infrastructure are pretty amazing. The things that impressed me most was the attention to detail and discipline required to operate such a facility. In walking through for a couple hours I didn’t see a single wire out of place, everything was pristine. The datacenter manager hosting the tour made a point that really struck me about the discipline required. He said that even the smallest non-compliance with facility rules and standards (i.e.. tools left behind, improper cabling, etc) resulted in disciplinary action. He said that when operating such a large and complex facility that attention to detail is critical else things can quickly start to spin out of control. Another interesting point was that only a small double digit number of people are required to staff the facility in total across three shifts.
The IEEE article talks primarily about the current Microsoft datacenters. For some insights on where we are going in the future, the following articles and video may be of interest.
Our Vision for Generation 4 Modular Data Centers - One way of Getting it just right
Microsoft's Generation 4 Data Center Vision - the Architects' Perspective
Designing Generation 4.0 Data Centers: The Engineers’ Approach to Solving Business Challenges