2012’s Big Moments in the Microsoft Cloud

Brian Janous, Utility ArchitectChristian Belady, General Manager
Data Center Services

Many of us spend time reflecting this time of year. At least I do. And while there are certainly times we need to evaluate, learn, and grow from the various challenges we face, at year's end I like to celebrate the positives and remember all the hard work our extended teams contributed to make them possible.

I'd like to share a list of some of the big moments from my perspective - through the lens of the support the Global Foundation Services' team provided to manage Microsoft's growing cloud infrastructure. These were big moments in how they influenced our business and the lasting impact they will have on the company.  


  • 123112-1Windows 8 launch: The arrival of Windows 8 ushered in a new ecosystem
    for Microsoft and the industry. Consumers purchased sleek new Windows 8 Surfaces, PCs, and Windows Phone 8 smartphones and began lighting up new Microsoft services - all of which are being hosted and delivered through our data centers.  Our team put in numerous hours to prepare for that magical moment. From streaming music through Xbox Music, storing and sharing important family photos on SkyDrive, or catching up with far-away family members over e-mail and Skype, Windows 8 became a critical entry point for consumers to access Microsoft services.  At the same time, developers created apps on Windows Azure then delivered them to Windows Store for all to enjoy.  Many pieces came together and it was a remarkable moment in Microsoft's product launch history. 


  • 123112-2Carbon Neutrality: Environmental sustainability is a key consideration for Microsoft in the design and operations of our data centers. On July 1, Microsoft took a major step by committing to achieve carbon neutrality. Our team in Global Foundations Services plays a critical role in helping achieve this goal. We're now operating with a measurement and chargeback model that allocates expenses to business units based on energy consumption. We are tremendously supportive of this goal as it establishes not only thoughtful accountability, but appropriate incentives for the company to design for efficiency.


  • 123112-3Office 365 for Government: With the introduction of Office 365 for Government, we began offering a cloud-based service for the U.S. government. This service stores government data in a segregated community cloud, including e-mail, calendars, scheduling and collaboration tools. We're well aware of how big a role security and privacy play when customers consider a move to the cloud, and we couldn't be more thrilled to see U.S. government organizations like the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs(600,000 users) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (25,000 users) both announce they would begin using Office 365 for Government and the Microsoft cloud.   


  • 123112-4EPA Green Power Award: Back in April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first listed Microsoft as the third largest (out of 50) purchasers of green power. Then in October, Microsoft was recognized as one of four organizations honored to receive the EPA's Green Power Partner of the Year award.  The award recognizes the country's leading green power purchasers for their commitment to helping advance the development of the nation's voluntary green power market.  As we continue evolving our strategy in the operations of data centers around the world, we will continue making sustainable energy sources a key criterion in the siting process for locating data centers.   


Global Foundation Services

  • 123112-5Wyoming Data Plant:  The first time I spoke publically about this idea was in 2010 at a conference in Crete.  Then in 2011, I wrote the first blog about theDisappearing Data Center to shed some light on our Data Plant concept. Then in November, we announced that we will build a R&D pilot project of the Data Plant in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The Wyoming Data Plant is designed to be the first zero carbon data center ever built that is independent of the grid. We'll place a containerized data center (ITPAC) at the Dry Creek Wastewater treatment plant to demonstrate the potential of using Methane to power data centers.  The Data Plant enables simplicity in data center designs in that we can eliminate the need for the entire grid infrastructure, as well as all the backup systems traditionally required.  This drives substantially lower costs and much improved efficiency since power does not have to be transported and is consumed at the spot where it is generated. While Wyoming is a pilot project, the promise for the Data Plant is significant as we look to implement this type of project at scale. 


  • 123112-6Cloud Growth:  To help meet the growing customer demand for more cloud-based services, we completed expansion projects of several existing data centers and announced a new data center.  We finalized the expansion of our Dublin, Ireland Data Center, now over 400,000 square feet.  Also, in August we completed a new expansion of our Boydton, Virginia data center to over 260,000 square feet. Both Dublin and Boydton make use of air-side economizers to improve cooling efficiency, and the expansion at Boydton was also built without backup power generators. Depending on Service Level Agreements for cloud services delivered, building data centers without generators is an emerging trend for us as we scale and move more of the resiliency into the software managing our cloud services and data centers. Lastly, together with Wyoming governor Matt Mead, we announced that we will build a new data center in Cheyenne to support the western region.  


  • 123112-7SOC 2 Type II Audits:  Protecting both physical and logical access to our cloud infrastructure is critical for our customers and business. To demonstrate our commitment to security, in June we became one of the first in the industry to complete SOC 2 Type II and SOC 3 audits. The SOC 2 report for service organizations contains rigorous standards for security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. Guided by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Trust Services Principles, SOC 2 reports are intended to establish trust and confidence with external customers regarding an organization's service delivery processes and controls. The SOC 3 report essentially summarizes the SOC 2 audit.   


  • 123112-8Hurricane Sandy:  On October 29, Hurricane Sandy left a devastating trail across the eastern region of the United States, and tested the IT industry's capacity to maintain connectivity. In the days leading up to Hurricane Sandy, our team launched our rigorous emergency response plan to ensure uninterrupted service to customers served on the East Coast.  A key part of Microsoft's cloud infrastructure strategy involves deep business continuity management planning, policies, and best practices that include globally dispersing data centers. In case of a natural disaster like Sandy, we have the ability to move information and traffic to other data centers in unaffected regions. Many on our team members spent countless hours working to execute the processes we established, monitor and evaluate our infrastructure, and provide situational updates. When Sandy hit, our pre-planning was invaluable and together with the industry, we'll learn from the event to prepare for future disasters.   

We've come a long way since building our first data center in 1989, and I'm continually amazed at the passion and dedication of our team.  We are committed to improving everything we do in the design and operation of Microsoft's cloud facilities.  This was a monumental year for Microsoft in many ways, and we look forward sharing more big moments on our journey in 2013 and beyond.           

I wish you all a happy New Year.  



Christian Belady is General Manager of Data Center Services at Microsoft and manages a team tasked with developing, researching, engineering, constructing, and operating Microsoft's worldwide data center facility portfolio. 

Christian Belady, General Manager, Data Center Services