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The word on the street is that James Hamilton - one of the chief nerds that has helped Microsoft plan its containerized data center strategy for its forthcoming Azure compute cloud - is leaving to take a job at Amazon.

And perhaps not coincidentally, this is happening at the same time as the local papers in Oregon are reporting that Amazon is looking to build a new data center near the cheap electricity generated by hydroelectric dams along the fast-moving Columbia River.

Hamilton, who has one of the smarter blogs dealing with data center issues, has spent a decade at Microsoft Research and a decade at IBM before that. Back in 2006, Hamilton was one of the earlier proponents for modularized data centers, taking the concepts of rack computing all the way out to the data center walls and cramming it all into shipping containers.

Technically, Hamilton is the architect for Microsoft's Data Center Futures projects and was previously the architect on Microsoft's Windows Live Platform team. He also worked on Exchange hosting services and Windows NT. Before coming to Micrsoft, Hamilton was at IBM as the chief architect for IBM's DB2 Universal Database product and is notable in that he created IBM's first C++ compiler.

According to a report in Tech Hermit, Hamilton is taking a job at Amazon, which is branching out rather successfully (so far at least) from online retailing to utility computing with its EC2 compute and S3 storage utilities.

It may just be a coincidence, but probably not, that the Oregonian is reporting that Amazon is the company behind a new data center being built in the town of Boardman in eastern Oregon near the Columbia River and its relatively inexpensive electricity. (Google is building a data center in nearby The Dalles and has negotiated power supplies with the Bonneville Power Authority, which runs the hydroelectric generating plants).

Given Amazon's hyperscale server infrastructure with the utility services it wants to sell to corporations in North America and now in Europe - EC2 opened for business in Europe this week - a guy like Hamilton might come in handy helping to design a containerized data center and make it hum. Amazon, of course, doesn't like to talk about where its data centers are, since this is a strategic differentiator. But, then again, you can't exactly hide a data center - not even one crammed into shipping containers, unless you want to plunk it into the ports of Newark or Seattle or such.

Microsoft loves the idea of using containerized data centers and has picked Dell's elite Data Center Solutions unit to help it build computing infrastructure and possibly containers (neither Microsoft nor Dell would confirm the last bit) for the massive 220-container center planned for the suburbs of Chicago to support Microsoft's cloud computing efforts, dubbed Azure. ®

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