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Microsoft's Mega Datacenters Coming Online

Six months after scaling back construction of some of its datacenters, Microsoft is back in gear and ready to open at least two of them next month.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) officials had slowed work on a datacenter in Chicago and another facility planned in Des Moines, Iowa, late last year, as the economy sputtered.

However, if the company really wants to win the battle for cloud computing dominance as the concept catches on, Microsoft executives knew they had to ante up to build mega datacenters -- bad economy or not.

Wednesday, Microsoft will open a new 300,000 square foot datacenter in Dublin, Ireland -- its first mega datacenter outside the U.S. -- and the company plans to open its mammoth, 700,000 square foot Chicago datacenter on July 20, according to a blog post by Arne Josefsberg, general manager of Microsoft's Infrastructure Services organization within Global Foundation Services.

However, the Des Moines facility is still postponed, a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mail. The company will not disclose how many datacenters is has built in recent years except to say the number is "more than 10 and less than 100."

The two most recent datacenters that Microsoft opened were a 477,000 square foot facility in San Antonio, Texas in September of last year, and a 500,000 square foot datacenter in Quincy, Wash. which opened in April 2007.

Looking to the future and cloud services

Both of the new datacenters are designed to support Microsoft's "growing Online, Live, and Cloud services," according to the post.

"It is truly exciting to bring these two data centers online … as the company’s Software-plus-Services strategy progresses, these data centers will play a key supporting role," Josefsberg added.

He referred to Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie's vision of a world connected through services "in the cloud" that also take advantage of Microsoft's software strengths. That encompasses various services that are already available, including Microsoft-hosted business applications, and its free Windows Live services, not to mention its new Bing search engine.

Additionally, the datacenters will also support Ozzie's Azure cloud application platform.

Ozzie and other top Microsoft executives have identified cloud computing as crucial to the company's long-term survival.

Last week, Microsoft announced it has hired Kevin Timmons, formerly Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) vice president of operations, to fill the job as general manager of Microsoft's Data Center Services organization.

In its two newest datacenters, Microsoft is trying to use the latest technology to contain costs for both equipment and electricity.

"Two-thirds of the Chicago data center is optimized for housing containerized servers. Containers conserve energy and will help us realize new advancements in power efficiency … These prepackaged units (with up to 1,800 to 2,500 servers each) can be wheeled into the facility and made operational within hours, so they represent important advances in the ability to quickly and efficiently provision capacity.

"The density inside the containers can exceed 10 times that of traditional data centers," Josefberg said.