Monday, September 22, 2008

Microsoft pitches a tent

Christian Balady and Sean James are insane. Why else would perfectly reasonable, educated, and skilled people, working in a multi-billion dollar company with some of the largest data centers in the world suddenly decide to take some servers and stick them under a tent in the fuel yard?

Absolute lunacy? Maybe not.

According to the pair, both Microsoft employees, the servers ran for 7 months with no downtime. Water dripped onto the rack. Nothing happened. Heat hit the tent. Nothing happened. A leaf stuck to a server panel. Nothing happened.

What this means is that servers might be a lot hardier than we once thought and all this insanity of 35 degree cooled rooms that cost ungodly amounts of money per month to run might prove to be the real lunacy in this mix.

Microsoft has already been running one of its Irish data centers on mostly outside air and has saved thousands of dollars in the process. Sure, when the temperatures soar, you have to turn on the air. But as long as things don't go above 80F, everything seems to be fine.

I've been telling people for years that this obsession with super-cooled server rooms was silly. One of the first things I've always done when taking over a new server room is to make sure that the servers have proper breathing room and air circulation and then turn up the temperature. I've kept most of my rooms at 70F+ with no problems at all and cooling the room only when temps got uncomfortable.

Don't get me wrong, nobody is saying that super-cooled server rooms are a thing of the past - yet. But it's becoming very obvious that we don't need to go to the lengths or the expense that's often associated with them. What we're seeing is a huge shift in the way we treat our servers and that's a good, economical thing.

Servers, after all, should be green too.