Feeds

To beat Google, Microsoft will become Google

Data-center armlock

Top three mobile application threats

Hidden in Microsoft's announcement of a fourth-generation data-center architecture is a hint of where the company is - and where it wants to go - in the battle against Google.

Also revealed was how far Microsoft is willing to become like Google in that fight.

The Generation 4 Modular Data Center is important to Microsoft - it said - because it provides the framework for the company's cloud data center infrastructure for the next five years.

It'll be a departure from Microsoft's older data centers and was described as "one of the most revolutionary changes to happen to data centers in the last 30 years".

Microsoft wants to get away from the current approach of designing and building data centers on a case-by-case basis with the cost and delays that produces. Gen 4 (the shortened name) will use a componentized manufacturing approach the company said, drawing on the IT industry's favored metaphor of utility and commodity - this time encapsulated by noted industrialist Henry Ford's Model T factory.

"We intend to have our components built in factories and then assemble them in one location (the data center site) very quickly," general manager for Microsoft's global foundation services Michael Manos blogged.

It's classic modern, modular thinking: As the service expands, Microsoft orders more systems that it slots into a grid to expand the power, scale, performance, and reliability of its date centers and the services using them.

Microsoft wrapped Gen 4 in some pretty green paper about the environment, saying the company can cut the amount of water used to cool servers in massive data centers.

Worthy though this was, this is not the at the heart of what's really going on here. Microsoft is working on a data center architecture that can be scaled out block by block as its number of online services and customers increases.

It's the classic scale out model, albeit more affordable as Microsoft will be using the utility and commodity play, while cutting its overheads - particularly on water-based cooling and in power consumption.

According to Manos, it was Microsoft newboy chief software architect Ray Ozzie who inadvertently initiated Gen 4 with his memo on Microsoft's software plus services. "That 'plus Services' tag had some significant (and unstated) challenges inherent to it," Manos said.

Microsoft has been running large-scale internet services for more than a decade, since the advent of MSN and Hotmail. Software plus services, though, meant Microsoft had to be able to become flexible enough at providing services across the internet and the enterprise, each of which have their own sets of demands.

Manos claimed Microsoft today has more than 240 online products and services. The goal is to grow, providing more Microsoft services and - with Azure Services Platform - the platform to run other peoples' services.

There is a contradiction at the heart of Gen 4, though. It's a contradiction that shows Microsoft is willing to become like Google in order to beat its ads and search nemesis. The company cannot use plain, old off-the-shelf server parts and server management software to run such an operation, never mind the kind of on-demand and flexible power-up and power-down service Manos has outlined.

Instead, Microsoft will do what Google does: order specially made parts for its servers. Google orders custom-build motherboards for its servers, bypassing the server OEM companies so that the search giant can build its own machines.

The indication is Microsoft knows this and will be drawing up the specs. It's just a question of who does the assembly - Microsoft, OEMs, or systems integrators.

"Think about how a computer, car or plane is built today," Manos said. "Components are manufactured by different companies all over the world to a predefined spec and then integrated in one location based on demands and feature requirements.

"And just like Henry Ford's assembly line drove the cost of building and the time-to-market down dramatically for the automobile industry, we expect Gen 4 to do the same for data centers. Everything will be pre-manufactured and assembled on the pad."

Here ends the Model-T dream.

There will be more to G4 than Manos has written. For example, we don't know what the specs will be or who the markers will be: just that there will be specs.

Importantly, we don't know what software will be used to run this modular, lights-out set up. Microsoft Watch's Mary Jo Foley has pointed to the existence of a "state-of-the art" networking project codenamed Trebuchet. Neither do we know what the management interface will look like.

Manos said it took a year to design Gen 4, drawn up from experience in Microsoft's data centers in Washington, Texas, and Illinois. The question becomes when does Microsoft feel it can start drawing on Google's experience, by flexing its muscle in relationships with server OEMs? ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Kingston DataTraveler MicroDuo: Turn your phone into a 72GB beast
USB-usiness in the front, micro-USB party in the back
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Inside the Hekaton: SQL Server 2014's database engine deconstructed
Nadella's database sqares the circle of cheap memory vs speed
BOFH: Oh DO tell us what you think. *CLICK*
$%%&amp Oh dear, we've been cut *CLICK* Well hello *CLICK* You're breaking up...
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
AMD's 'Seattle' 64-bit ARM server chips now sampling, set to launch in late 2014
But they won't appear in SeaMicro Fabric Compute Systems anytime soon
Amazon reveals its Google-killing 'R3' server instances
A mega-memory instance that never forgets
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.