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Microsoft plucks Yahoo! data center efficiency expert

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Microsoft has hired a Yahoo! data center veteran to help build an energy efficient infrastructure beneath its planned cloud and online services.

The company said Monday that Yahoo! vice president of operations Kevin Timmons has joined its Global Foundation Services operation where he'll head up the recently-created data center services unit.

Timmons is a 13-year veteran of Yahoo! who served for three years as director of operations for the recently deleted GeoCities, before ascending to the position of vice president of operations. In that role, Timmons helped build the massive server infrastructure that powers Yahoo!'s search, hosting, and adverting services.

He's the latest Yahoo! executive to be lured by Microsoft. He joins, among others, former executive vice president of engineering at Yahoo's search and advertising technology, Qi Lu. Lu now runs Microsoft's loss-making internet search and advertising business.

Earlier this year, Microsoft pulled in Yahoo! vice president Larry Heck, who joined the online services division of Microsoft's research and development unit.

This latest hire follows a re-organization of GFS in May. That saw the creation of five teams around shared infrastructure, programmable infrastructure, platform hardware and standards, global network services, and the data center services unit that Timmons will now lead.

Microsoft appears to have brought Timmons on to help in the on-going selection of sites for future data centers and to help ensure the centers' power efficiency.

Arne Josefsberg, Microsoft's general manager of infrastructure services in GFS, blogged of Timmons: "Kevin is known as a hands-on leader with a great grasp on the issues in his field and a keen interest in increasing energy efficiency. One of the key ways he has approached that challenge was by closely measuring efficiency at each data center and using PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) as a key metric - a strategy that helped build more efficient data centers."

The company has begun building modular data centers, essentially vast warehouses with servers packed into shipping containers that are lifted and slotted into place according to demand and connected by cabling running through a skeleton of network ducts.

It's an approach known you might call white-trash computing.

Microsoft's $185 million Chicago, Illinois facility is the poster child and chief software architect Ray Ozzie recently said the company planned data centers in every country. A center is also under construction in Dublin, Ireland, but a West Des Moines, Iowa facility has been put on hold thanks to a $300m cut in data-center spending as part of Microsoft's attempt to reduce costs.

A key feature of these white-trash centers is economic use of power, to help control expenses. The company's devised its own data-center analytics tool called Scry to monitor energy use, carbon emissions, water and refrigerator use, humidity and temperature. Scry monitors servers, groups of servers, and data centers, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft charges data center use back to its business units and has given data center managers the task of running their centers efficiently. ®

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