Microsoft’s data centres are pretty “green”. And when I say green, I mean that they build & install only what they absolutely need, and they focus very heavily on power. A common measurement stick is Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), which Wikipedia defines as:
… how much energy is used by the computing equipment (in contrast to cooling and other overhead).
The lower the number, the better. Microsoft does not share their PUE publicly, but according to the Green (Low Carbon) Data Center Blog the:
… PUE figures for its newest data centers which range from 1.13 to 1.2.
That’s an incredibly efficient achievement. I know quite a bit about how Microsoft do this, but I’m under NDA, after NDA, after NDA 🙂 All I can say is jump at the chance if you ever have an opportunity to tour on of the Microsoft Global Foundation Services modern data centres.
So what drives Microsoft? Sure, getting the likes of Greenpeace on your side is always good,especially when trying to sell business to environmentally sensitive customers. But the biggest reason for electrical efficiency is to save money. Electricity is only becoming more and more expensive. Data centers are growing in size and number, and are competing for this limited resource with each other, and with us (customers, consumers, businesses, etc). So saving a hundredth from a PUE figure could be worth millions of dollars every year (if not more!).
According to Fool.com, Microsoft has gone one step further by acquiring 20 years of power supply from a wind farm in Illinois, USA. This produces 175MW of power, all for Microsoft! And before that, Microsoft agreed to purchase 100% of production from a wind farm in Texas.
In theory, this is a renewable energy source with a pretty fixed cost. That contrasts nicely with competing for electricity from producers that are using dwindling carbon-based fuels. The strategy allows Microsoft to budget long-term, and it doesn’t hurt that renewable power will get a nod of approval from those wearing vegan trousers. It makes sense that Microsoft will continue this trend worldwide, thus making property costs and climate the only variations in the cost of operating Azure in different regions.