Microsoft Plans Pair of 'Big Box' Data Centers

Microsoft Corp. is developing nearly 1 million square feet of data center space in two supersized facilities, one in San Antonio and the other near Chicago, to help support its growing online services offerings.

Microsoft announced this month that it is setting up a 550,000-square-foot data center in Northlake, Ill. The buildings area is equal to about 12 acres of land, which would be enough space to comfortably house four or even five big box retailers.

The Northlake data center will begin operating early next spring, Microsoft said. In addition, in July the company began building a 447,000-square-foot data center in San Antonio that it expects to open next summer.

Microsoft is leasing the Northlake facility, which was built by data center development firm Ascent Corp. and a partner. Ascent CEO Phil Horstmann said the original plan was to divide the space among as many as eight users.

The data center will house tens of thousands of servers, said Mike Manos, Microsofts senior director of data center services. But it will be tended by just 30 people, including IT staffers, security personnel and janitors, he said.

Microsoft will rely heavily on automation to run the data center. And to keep energy costs down, it will use air-side economization essentially, open windows. Manos, a Windy City native, said that during the fall, winter and spring, cold outside air will be used to chill the data center.

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