The Disappearing Datacenter….

By Christian Belady
General Manager of Datacenter Advanced Development

Sustainability is an interesting thing. It really means so many things to so many people but I really like the way it is defined in Wikipedia; “Sustainability is the capacity to endure.” Clearly, when taken in the context of the environment we are as an industry taking steps to try to be sustainable. If you look at the executive brief we are releasing today and the story on “Microsoft’s Quest for Greater Efficiency in the Cloud”, I talk about the metrics that have been introduced recently by the Green Grid such as CUE and WUE to add to the already globally recognized metric of PUE. These are really great metrics to improve sustainability in our industry segment and as you all know I am a huge supporter of these metrics. However, the problem long term with these metrics is that they only optimize the datacenter piece in the complete ecosystem. This is why over the past couple years, my main focus (and the focus of my new team) has been looking at the whole cloud ecosystem as an opportunity for optimization. How does that change how we look at things? How can we integrate across what have been different industry segments to achieve greater efficiencies and an even more sustainable cloud ecosystem than we could have ever imagined? For example, I introduce the idea of data plants, which is the integration of power plants and datacenters. This concept can substantially improve efficiency by eliminating the need for transmission lines, substations, and transformers (as well as the associated voltage losses) that we see in today’s power distribution ecosystem. With data plants we distribute a form of energy called data in a completely different grid called the network. Looking at it this way, we are essentially taking another step in the evolution of refining the energy being distributed.

  • In the 1800s – coal was the primary form of energy for industry
  • In the 1900s – electricity (a processed form of coal) was the form of energy for industry
  • In the 2000s – data (a processed form of electricity) will be the form energy for industry

The point is that if we look at data as a form of energy, how does that change what we are doing today? When I talk about the disappearing datacenter, what I really mean is that it will disappear as we know it through integration and drive unprecedented levels of efficiency gain….and this can only be done at the scale of the cloud.