The data center of the future could very well come pre-assembled, complete with everything but the concrete pad, Microsoft predicts.

In a blog looking at the future of data centers, Kevin Timmons, Microsoft’s general manager of data center services, says the next evolution in data centers could very well see every part of a facility pre-manufactured and shipped ready to be assembled at a company site.

“The data center industry is at an inflection point,” he said in the blog posted on a Microsoft’s site this week. “We need the ability to build out “at right scale” based on capacity needs at unprecedented price points. Oh, by the way – it’s also imperative that we find ways to avoid the significant up-front costs and long lead times required to build traditional data centers.

“Mission impossible, right?,” he asks.  “Wrong,” is his conclusion.

Timmons notes that Microsoft has already seen rapid changes in data center design that have lowered costs, improved computing and energy performance, and speeded deployment times. The company’s most recent data center in Chicago used a container approach, where ready-to-run containers filled with servers and cooling systems were moved into the building. At a recently built data center in Dublin, Ireland, the company was able to eliminate the need for chillers by using the cool Irish air for cooling and through the use of “server pods” where hot exhaust air from the servers is pulled away and vented.

Now he says Microsoft is preparing to move forward with a “Generation 4” data center.

Such a design would have everything but the concrete pad pre-manufactured and assembled on site, including the IT, mechanical, cooling and electrical components. Timmons refers to the design as ITPAC. Units would be made from standard recyclable parts, such as steel and aluminum, and would be cooled with as little as a single water hose with residential levels of pressure to control ambient temperatures.

Microsoft believes it can reduce the time it takes to ramp up new cloud computing capacity by half using the ITPAC approach, as well as significantly reduce the cost of the data center’s construction.





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