Microsoft has opened the doors on what it is calling its first “mega data center” in Europe, to meet the needs of its plans for online and cloud-related services.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant officially took the wraps off a $500 million data center in Dublin, Ireland, which features a number of new energy-saving technologies, including the ability to operate without chilled water cooling system.

“The opening of the data center is a milestone in our ongoing investment in Europe and provides the critical infrastructure to support the delivery of our next generation of online services for both businesses and consumers,” Microsoft International President Jean-Philippe Courtois said at the opening.

The data center was one of the largest construction projects undertaken in Ireland over the last 12 months, requiring a workforce of 2,100 at peak and covering 303,000 square feet. Microsoft said the center will play a critical role in its plans to build out cloud computing capacity as well as support such businesses as the Bing search engine, Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite, and Windows Live. It will support operations throughout Europe, as well as the Middle East and Africa.

It incorporates a number of design features that allow it to operate 50% more efficiently than data centers built just three years ago, the company said. It makes use of the low ambient air temperatures in Ireland to deploy “free air” cooling almost exclusively, eliminating the need for chilled water cooling systems used in most data centers. This saves about 18 million liters (4.75 million gallons) of water each month.The facility also uses the latest generation of IT hardware, and makes use of increased hardware utilization.

In a blog highlighting the new facility (, Microsoft General Manager of Infrastructure Services Arne Josefsberg noted that the temperature range in Dublin is between 23 to 80 degrees year round. Air-handling units on the roof the facility draw outside air down to cool the server rooms, then return hot air back out to the roof. The outside air is usually lower than the 95 degree F limit for the server room, making it possible to operate the facility with virtually no additional cooling systems.

“As a result of these measures the Dublin facility will use less than 1% of the water that traditional data center facilities typically use on an annual basis, and will improve Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) by approximately 50%,” Josefsberg said in the blog.

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