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Microsoft Hails Chicago Datacenter Opening

Microsoft this week is celebrating the formal "grand opening" of its mammoth Chicago-area datacenter, a key component in the company's effort to embrace services in the cloud.

The news came in a post on the MS Datacenter blog.

"At more than 700,000 square feet, this facility significantly expands our ability to meet the demand generated from our Live, Online, and Cloud Computing services offerings for our customers," Arne Josefsberg, general manager of infrastructure services for Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Global Foundation Services, said in the post.

Opening of the Chicago datacenter follows the opening of a datacenter in Dublin, Ireland, a week earlier, Josefsberg said. The Dublin facility, however, is only 300,000 square feet.

The new Chicago facility, which actually began service last summer, uses pre-built, standard-sized shipping containers that hold between 1,800 and 2,500 pre-installed servers, along with all the necessary power and networking components, as well as environmental control units for cooling. They hook together using standard connectors.

That makes deploying the containers nearly as simple as moving them into place and hooking them up -- a new container can be integrated into the datacenter in a matter of hours, the company has said.

Like other online service providers such as Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Microsoft needs to deploy large amounts of computing power "in the cloud." At the same time, because powering and cooling huge datacenters takes large amounts of electricity, the company is deploying the site in stages.

Additionally, while being as miserly as possible with power usage, Microsoft is still working to provide the highest-possible performance for users, even as usage grows.

"The first phase of the Chicago datacenter represents 30 megawatts of critical power. An additional 30 megawatts is pre-positioned for future growth," Josefsberg said.

The Chicago datacenter was briefly put on hold late last year due to Microsoft's emergency cost cutting moves related to the economic downturn.

Cooling the Chicago datacenter uses technologies similar to those used in a new research and development datacenter at the company's headquarters, which Microsoft announced last month.

"[This] enables us to cool the facility without requiring the high levels of electricity typically needed to power large chillers," Josefsberg said.

Dubbed Redmond Ridge 1, the recently-opened research and development datacenter is designed to use one-third of the energy demanded by those same servers when they are located in individual labs in office buildings around Microsoft's sprawling Redmond, Washington campus.

The Redmond Ridge datacenter is planned to host more than 35,000 servers by next spring.