Microsoft Building $500 Million Data Center In Virginia


As part of its headlong dive into cloud computing, Microsoft has chosen to build a $500 million data center in southern Virginia's Mecklenburg county.

Texas and North Carolina had also been vying for the project, which will generate 50 new jobs in the region, according to a Commonwealth Of Virginia statement issued last Friday. "Microsoft is a household name and securing this global project is a significant economic win for Virginia," Governor Bob McDonnell said in the statement.

As is typically the case, Microsoft chose the site of its Virginia data center based on its ready access to bandwidth and electrical power. The Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative (MBC) open-access fiber optic network will connect Microsoft's data center to carrier interconnects in the eastern U.S., and Dominion Virginia Power is offering Microsoft "extremely reliable electric supply" and "competitively priced electricity," according to the statement.

The Virginia data center, which state officials are calling the "largest economic investment in Southern Virginia history," reflects Microsoft's "Generation 4" datacenter strategy, which relies on modular design and pre-assembled components to maximize energy efficiency and avoid costly over-provisioning.

"Our plan is to move towards pre-manufacturing every part of the datacenter and assembling them onsite based on the class of service to be delivered and supported," said Kevin Timmons, Microsoft's general manager of datacenter services, in a blog post in March.

Microsoft says this approach will help it ramp up cloud computing capacity twice as fast as traditional data centers while also reducing construction costs. "This gives us the flexibility to grow without having to commit to a large upfront investment for a datacenter and hope that demand shows up later," Timmons said in the blog post.

The Virginia data center won't use mechanical cooling units, and this will allow its average Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) ratio to be around 1.15 to 1.19, with a peak PUE of 1.32 to 1.38, depending on weather conditions, according to Timmons.

Microsoft last July opened two massive data centers in Chicago and Dublin Ireland to support its cloud ambitions.

The Chicago facility spans 700,000 square feet and came online with 30 megawatts of critical power, with an additional 30 megawatts of expansion capacity. It uses container architecture and will eventually 300,000 servers.

Microsoft's Dublin facility, the company's largest data center outside the U.S., is a 303,000-square-foot building that came online with 5.4 megawatts (1 million watts) of critical power and will eventually be able to expand to 22.2 megawatts. This facility also takes advantage of Ireland's chilly climate for cooling purposes.

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