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Microsoft Plans $500 Million Chicago Data Center 175

miller60 writes "Microsoft is planning a huge new data center in the Chicago area, as it continues to expand its Internet infrastructure in an effort to keep pace with Google in web-based services. The new facility in Northlake, Ill. may cost more than $500 million and is expected to span 440,000 square feet. Microsoft opened a 470,000 square foot data center in Quincy, Washington earlier this year, and is building a similar facility in San Antonio. Microsoft has also submitted plans for a $500 million data center campus in Dublin, Ireland."
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Microsoft Plans $500 Million Chicago Data Center

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  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @08:45AM (#21253565) Journal
    Please describe how many LOC (libraries of congress) the data center will store. Also give the area in football fields and heights in statue of liberty and the energy consumption in number of homes that could be lit up.
    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:06AM (#21253719) Journal
      FTA (emphasis mine):

      Microsoft has been keenly focused on power costs in its data center site location efforts. While 5 cents per kilowatt hour is in the midrange of average state-by-state power costs, it is lower than rates found near many major data center markets such as California (9 cents per kWh) or northern New Jersey (11 center per kWh). Microsoft's data center in Quincy runs on hyrdro power that costs less than 2 centers per kilowatt hour
      I don't know how many homes can be lit up by the planned power consumption, but their facility in Quincy WA has energy that costa six licks per kilowatt hour (if you don't recall, it takes three licks to get to a center. Since the cost of the IL facility is 250% that of the WA facility, we can calculate that the cost in the IL facility will be 7.5 licks per kWh.

      Furthermore, we know that 5 good licks is an ol'-fashioned ass-whupping, so the power cost will be 1.5 ass-whuppings per kWh.

      Sounds like Ballmer will need to work overtime, since he is only budgeted to dispense 1 ass-whupping per hour; the smart money right now would be investing in chair manufacturers.
    • Also, the cost should be given in A-Rods, not dollars.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by shdwtek (898320)
      And don't forget the measurement of how many Mp3's the data center can store.
    • A more useful analogy would be how many flying chairs can be housed in the building.
    • by sootman (158191)
      Your comment is hysterical (and more than a little insightful.)

      Also, your username is more complex than my password.
  • More work (Score:4, Informative)

    by El Lobo (994537) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @08:47AM (#21253575)
    Great, more work for the IT folk in Chicago. The Quincy data center has created employment for 1200 persons... Not a bad thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @08:50AM (#21253593)
    The big challenge is going to be getting NetBEUI to work between all those locations.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      The big challenge is going to be getting NetBEUI to work between all those locations.
      Errrmmmm...NetBEUI isn't routeab....oh, I get it, you were making a funny.

      Here. Let me try:

      Another big challenge will be trying to get Bob working on their desktops!

      There, did I nail it?
      • by Barny (103770) <bakadamage-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:07AM (#21253723) Homepage Journal

        Another big challenge will be trying to get Vista working on their desktops!

        There we go, fixed ^_^

        Oh and am I the first to say "imagine a Beowulf cluster o".... nm, windows can't do that.
        • by ByOhTek (1181381)
          Only because of the requirement of Beowulf clusters being based on an OSS Operating System. Ignoring that requirement, windows could handle it just fine.

          Personally I don't see a technical reason for that requirement, so it strikes me as no more than a pointless marketing requirement, like you see when a recipie on the side of a box of food names ingrediants by their brand names, instead of just what type of they are. (i.e. 2 cups shredded craft cheddar, instead of 2 cups shredded cheddar, or 2 cups velvita
          • by Retric (704075)
            Beowulf clusters are designed to maximize the performance of hardware as a distributed system. Windows consumes more resources, which makes windows a poor choice in those environments. So why waste time supporting them?

            PS: You could hack together a Beowulf cluster using Cygwin it's going to be slower and well pointless, but feel free.
            • by ByOhTek (1181381)
              No. The definition specifically states it must be an OSS Operating System, if memory serves. It's not the most solid definition (a high performance network-distributed application infrastructure run on an OSS Operating System, usually Unix)

              So, even with Cygwin, a BC is out. From what I've read, the most critical part is the OSS, which means Linux, *BSD, and variants of Solaris are OK - possibly even ReactOS, but not Windows (tweakable to be low overhead) or True64 (I think that's closed source).
              • by Retric (704075)
                Where does it say that? I am not trying to be pedantic wikipedia could use this info. "It is highly essential to the definition that the OS be Unix-like, and be free and open source.[citation needed]"

                It was my understanding that the primary definition revolved around not containing any custom hardware components and trivially reproducible. Granted the first reference was from the Linux world but it's DragonFly BSD is also generally accepted so I don't think it's OS specific. So I don't think windows or OS
              • by Barny (103770)
                Ok, so we load Vista ultimate on all the machines, microsoft virtual PC and linux under that... hrmm, you know if you then water cooled the whole thing you could use the steam produced to run a turbine and produce some of the power needed to run it.

                It would be kinda like a perpetual motion machine, but the complete opposite :)
      • by Duhavid (677874)
        "There, did I nail it?"

        No, you clipped it.
  • by suso (153703) * on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @08:51AM (#21253597) Homepage Journal
    Just make sure you reinforce the concrete walls with titanium. ;-)
    • by StarfishOne (756076) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:16AM (#21253817)
      It will be protected by Itanium walls and a ChairLauncher which can launch at a rate of 40 standard Ballmers per minute.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sledge_hmmer (1179603)
        I can't wait for the next Mission Impossible movie where Tom Cruise has to dodge the chairs as he breaks in to this data centre.
        • Some people say that the name of that new movie will break with the current naming scheme and switch to Mission Developers Developers Developers (a.k.a. M{1}D{3} ).

          "Ethan Hunt comes face to face with a dangerous and sadistic arms^Harmchair dealer while trying to keep his identity secret in order to protect his girlfriend."
  • by Mostly a lurker (634878) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @08:57AM (#21253641)
    ... will it run Linux?

    If not, Microsoft is going to be hard pressed to match Google in performance, however much money they throw at the problem.

  • Why Chicago? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:00AM (#21253669)
    What was the reasoning behind Chicago? I'm not saying that Chicago is a bad choice but it would seem to me that there are better choices. The reason I would not put Chicago on top of the list of places is infrastructure. During the last few summer, Chicago was one of the cities that experienced rolling black outs because their electric grid couldn't handle the load. Also Chicago has hard winters which could cause disruptions during those months. And then you have the initial cost of building in Chicago. Land in Chicago, like most cities, isn't cheap. I don't know much about Google's data centers but their centers seem to have several things in common: cheap land and abundant electricity.
    • by suso (153703) *
      I would say moving it a bit further south to Indianapolis would be a much better choice. Power is cheaper and there are quite a few big pipes going through Indy.
    • by Otter (3800)
      San Antonio also seems like an odd location: blazing hot and a river that (admittedly I've only seen it in pictures) doesn't look like it generates Columbia-level hydropower.
      • Obviously you've never actually been to San Antonio. Yes, the summers are hot, but that's just the summer. The rest of the year enjoys perfect temperatures. If you go west of San Antonio you will notice several wind powered electricity farms up on the bluffs that I-10 courses through. The areas far west of San Antonio benefit from an abundance of continuous wind. Fortunately, it isn't so within San Antonio and the immediate area. It is quite an interesting sight, so yes, we do have electricity.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Yes, the summers are hot, but that's just the summer. The rest of the year enjoys perfect temperatures.

          Yes, the summers are hot, but that's just the summer. The rest of the year enjoys randomly variable weather that drives meteorologists mad. FTFY.

      • Re:Why Chicago? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother&optonline,net> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:43AM (#21254175) Journal

        San Antonio was no doubt chosen because it is remote, and unlikely to be exposed to a major natural disaster (flood, earthquake, hurricane, etc.). They are probably thinking of diversifying their data centers as much as possible, to guard against them becoming easy targets for physical destruction.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by MiniMike (234881)
      Pizza. Can't get good pizza in Indy, not like in Chicago. Rolling Blackout? Get a deep dish. Stuck in 8 feet of snow? Get some pepperoni on it, but eat quick because you won't be stuck long. Plenty of reasons to put it in Chicago.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JamJam (785046)
      Then again, by population Chicago is America's 3rd largest city http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_cities_by_population [wikipedia.org] Being close to that many people/corporations means that the service MSFT provides should be enhanced in regards to data latency. Maybe they're focusing more on providing real-time data environments.
      • by suso (153703) *
        Low latency? The data center is half a billion dollars. Just buy OC192s to everyone's house while they are at it. I'm joking, but they practically could build a huge data pipe to most of the major regional cities for a fraction of that cost.
    • by BobMcD (601576)
      From what I understand of Illinois, they're also looking at licensing issues, union issues, and a whole host of odd-ball regulations up there...
    • Re:Why Chicago? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:25AM (#21253921) Journal
      Insightful? Please, RTFA.

      Power in Northlake costs $0.05 per kWh.

      Even Google's cheapest (by power cost) datacenter, their Columbia River facility on a hydro grid, costs roughly 25 cents per watt/year -- or about $.028 per kWh. Yes, slightly more than half the power cost of the Northlake facility.

      However, if you think about it, there are benefits to diversified data center locations. They reduce the impact of regional disturbances such as storms (or, as you point out, power outages). They also distribute the demand for qualified labor, which keeps labor costs down.

      Here's [techdirt.com] a link with some info about power costs affecting datacenter locations, with some other useful links included

      Also please note that the cost of the land is one of the most minor costs of building a datacenter.
      • I don't doubt that the cost of electricity might be cheap in Northlake but Chicago has experienced blackouts in 1995 and 1999 during heat waves during the summer months. My argument was other places have cheaper land and more abundant and reliable electricity.
      • by hackstraw (262471)
        Insightful? Please, RTFA.

        I second that.

        These decisions are complex. Power, staff requirements, taxes, the local bar scene, where the boss's mistress lives, etc. All of these are real variables when making a decision like this. Some are openly discussed, some are not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CheeseTroll (696413)
      Well, there's very little threat of earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, or flooding (unless they're building it in the basement of a bldg in the Loop, that is!).

      I think you're really overstating Chicago's rolling blackout 'problem'. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only blackouts I'm aware of were caused by thunderstorms, and that happens anywhere that trees coexist with overhead power lines.

      And winter? Bah. Free AC for the servers for 6 months out of the year.

      Land prices are tricky. Some pla
      • I think you're really overstating Chicago's rolling blackout 'problem'. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only blackouts I'm aware of were caused by thunderstorms, and that happens anywhere that trees coexist with overhead power lines.

        Chicago's blackouts were normally in the summer months during heat waves when there wasn't enough electricity to meet the demand as people started turning on their AC units.

        And winter? Bah. Free AC for the servers for 6 months out of the year.

        There are more issues than tem

    • by Richard W.M. Jones (591125) <<rich> <at> <annexia.org>> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:43AM (#21254177) Homepage

      During the last few summer, Chicago was one of the cities that experienced rolling black outs

      Perhaps Microsoft are trying to replicate their desktop experience for their hosted products?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by miller60 (554835)
      While some folks are chasing power and space, many data center builders still follow the business customers. That's why there's been a data center building boom in the Chicago area in the past two years. The biggest driver has been demand from financial companies associated with futures trading in Chicago, which store lots of data and have seen strong growth in high-speed trading. Essentially, companies that can execute program trades faster than their competitor have an advantage. As low latency network te
    • by slyborg (524607) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:59AM (#21254369)
      From TFA:

      "Microsoft has been keenly focused on power costs in its data center site location efforts. While 5 cents per kilowatt hour is in the midrange of average state-by-state power costs, it is lower than rates found near many major data center markets such as California (9 cents per kWh) or northern New Jersey (11 center per kWh)." Commonwealth Edison also generates around most of its power from nuclear reactors, making the location carbon friendly on that basis.

      Sources of Electricity Supplied Percentage of Total for the 12 months ending September 30,2006

      Biomass power 1%
      Coal-fired power 4%
      Hydro Power 0%
      Natural gas-fired power 0%
      Nuclear power 92%
      Oil-fired power 0%
      Solar power 0%
      Wind power 0%
      Other resources 0%
      Unknown resources purchased from other companies 3%
      TOTAL 100%

      As noted in some other comments, Chicago also is :

      (a) 3rd largest metro area in the US and largest in the Midwest
      (b) a major rail hub - much fiber was laid on railroad rights of way in the go-go 90s
      (c) notoriously corrupt, so it's likely Microsoft will receive massive tax subsidies that will reduce its costs

      And I've lived in Chicago all my life and can't identify any "rolling blackouts" recently. ComEd had infrastructure problems with ancient cabling in the city proper 10-12 years ago during a very hot summer (as do many older cities). The main issue Chicagoans have with ComEd is with its recently raised residential rates, which were jacked up 20% despite record profits for ComEd and its parent, Exelon. This is thanks to the notoriously corrupt politics of the great state of Illinois as a whole.
      • (c) notoriously corrupt, so it's likely Microsoft will receive massive tax subsidies that will reduce its costs

        Thats the gray area corruption that you know about, the real corruption problem are the off the book "donations" you have to pay to get those tax breaks and avoid getting speeding tickets for each server.
      • They signed a series of expensive coal contracts in the 70's (western low sulfur coal) and got burned... big time. Hence... when the gov't came around and asked for volunteers for nuclear power - they jumped on it just to get out of the BAD business decision that was made. Don't think for a second it was because of concerns for the environment.

    • by hey (83763)
      Its near the middle of the country. The datacenter will be in the suburbs or further out (I bet) so land cost isn't a big deal.
    • This place is right next to the a rail yard, high tension power lines, and sub station, I-294 and I-290, IL-64 are near by as well.

      http://maps.google.com/maps?q=601+Northwest+Ave&ie=UTF-8&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&sa=N&tab=wl [google.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EmperorKagato (689705)
      It would have been better if they actually built a datacenter in Chicago.
      • The MTC is at Clark / Lake blue line station downtown Chicago
      • Everything south of the loop is cheap as far south as Bronzeville to Hyde Park
      • Chicago rarely becomes immobile due to a winter storm: 2006's harsh winter storms brought the suburbs to a halt yet Chicago streets and expressways were drivable
      • Chicago is the transportation hub and networking hub of the Midwest
    • by jbengt (874751)
      Chicago, as others have noted, is a large population center near the middle of the country, a pretty good location geographically.

      Chicago does not suffer a lack of electrical capacity. ComEd has had issues with reliability of some of it's older transformers and switches, which they have been aggressively (but not aggressively enough) replacing and upgrading. As far as I can recall, Chicago did not have any rolling blackouts. They have had brownouts in the past, but blackouts are usually due to blown tran
    • by Ykant (318168)
      We had rolling blackouts the last couple of summers? News to me...
    • by scottv67 (731709)
      Chicago was one of the cities that experienced rolling black outs because their electric grid couldn't handle the load.

      Riiiiight. Fermi Lab is not very far from Chicago and I don't remember hearing any stories about "the grid" running out of juice to power the big ring at FNAL.

      Also, Chicago has Da Bears. The odds of an IT worker from IL being willing to come in on a Sunday afternoon for datacenter work are much higher than, for example, asking a Packer fan from WI to work on Sunday afternoon. I predi
  • by KenshoDude (1001993) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:02AM (#21253691)
    440,000 square feet? Anyone else surprised that these data centers aren't 640K square feet?
  • More Likely (Score:3, Funny)

    by Trailwalker (648636) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:11AM (#21253769)

    an effort to keep pace with Google in web-based services.

    More likely, needed to handle the DRM and spyware in Vista.
  • Data thieves don't [slashdot.org] screw around in Chicago [theregister.co.uk] and MS isn't exactly synonymous with "security."
  • Chicago? (Score:4, Funny)

    by chinton (151403) <chinton001-slash ... m ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:15AM (#21253809) Journal
    I thought they released that in 1995?!?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jimbo3123 (320148)
      For those youngsters on here, Windows 95 was codenamed Chicago before its release.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by RetroGeek (206522)
        And Windows 95 was nothing like what Chicago was supposed to be.

        Microsoft tried to re-write DOS/Win 3.11 into what OS/2 was. The early alpha versions of Chicago showcased this.

        Lots of time and dollars later they created a GUI veneer over DOS, called it Windows 95, and then marketed the hell out of it.
  • Now if they just could have any useful services. Competing with google will take much more than increasing bandwidth and processing power. Current services that try their utmost to tie into the desktop just plain sucks. It should be the other way around.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209)
      Are all these datacenters just for Microsoft's own use? I agree, I don't see why their online presence, such as it is, would require so many half-billion dollar datacenters.
  • by Lxy (80823) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:34AM (#21254067) Journal
    Does that include the cost of Windows licenses?
  • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:36AM (#21254087)
    Dunno why but this strange thought just popped into my head...

    The Cold War of the second half of the 20th century was ultimately won by the US because the USSR couldn't keep up with the financial strain of building and maintaining such a huge military. The US basically outspent the USSR.

    I wonder if we're seeing a similar thing happening between Google & MS. Back in the 80's & 90's MS was on top of the world and in control of virtually everything computer related. Their focus, however, wasn't on internet technologies until the late 90's when the first internet bubble hit. Google, on the other hand, started in the heyday of the bubble and focused entirely on the internet. Now MS is pouring tons of cash into internet projects in an effort to compete against Google since they see Google as their biggest competitive threat. MS has to deal with a dominant OS, Office products, MSN, and other products/services that they've built and acquired over the years, on top of their internet offerings. Google, on the other hand, is just focusing on the internet. I wonder if MS will eventually find that it has overextended itself by investing too much in competing with Google, and if that will end up eventually hurting them financially in a manner similar to the way the USSR went bankrupt trying to keep up with the US. It may not happen for many years, but I wonder if that's what we'll eventually see.
    • by jorghis (1000092)
      You might have a point if it werent for the fact that these non-internet ventures arent money losers, they are money makers in a major way. Although google certainly does spend more on web services right now the idea that MS will go bankrupt trying to compete with them is just nuts, they can afford to spend money like noone else can.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Scumbumbo (521718)
      With income of just over $14 billion for the fiscal year ended July 2007, Microsoft will make back a $500 million dollar investment in a bit less than two weeks. Compared to most businesses, this investment is a bit like buying new mops for the janitorial staff.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        They will only make it back based on revenue the data center brings in, or allows.

        Other revenue sources don't apply in corporate financing.

  • I wonder (Score:3, Funny)

    by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @10:17AM (#21254587)
    Are these datacentres going to be cube shaped, ala the Borg?
  • Microsoft could be competing with the aluminum smelters as our largest consumer of electricity. It's nice to see that they are doing their part to keep things exciting in the foreign energy market.
    • Anyone know how many mega/gigawatts this data center of Microsoft's will have allotted for use? How much energy does the aluminum plant use?
      • Ah here we go: "The initial specs for the facility were to include 40 megawatts of power available at 5 cents a kilowatt hour, with a dedicated substation on the 12-acre property."
  • Sorry but in the online service wars that pit MS against anyone else, always bet on anyone else. MS I'm afraid is never up to the task and frankly they never seem eager enough to succeed. For Google - online IS their business. For MS, online is a diversion they pour a few billion of their parked cash into. If MS is building two DCs for 1.2 billion dollars (the actual figure are 600 per not 500) total then it's a placeholder. Intel thought they would get into the outsourcing business in 1999 and spent 1 bill
  • OK, so they have several 0.5billion$ facilities around the USA and the world. MS can afford that easily, what with a warchest of 40-45 billion. BUT... how much will this cost MS in the long run? Those computers need maintenance, and so do the facilities, and the salaries of the employees there don't just grow on trees. And then there's a bit of electricity being transformed into Joule heat.

    Hmm... I have absolutely no idea, but I guess it could be several tens of millions/year.
  • Well, if MS base their data centres on Windows, then their costs will be at least double that of Google and more like 5 to 10 times more. So a $500M MS data centre is actually quite small, compared to a $500M Google data centre.
  • Once again Microsoft is pushing an untested Operating System into service as a server, with this poorly-planned Windows 95-based data center.
  • Oh my. Is Microsoft buying up false floor to track Google's expansion into data centre space, on speculation that Google will use it for something Microsoft will need to compete with? As soon as Microsoft finds out what Google is buying up data centres for, that is. Which will probably happen after Google figures out what to do with their own acquisitions. It's a huge amount of data centre investment, and I think Cringley has been tracking the speculation.

This is now. Later is later.