What a Microsoft CPD is like inside: this is how Cloud regions are like the one to be installed in Madrid
Getting into a Microsoft DPC is not easy, although the company acknowledges that many customers are curious and want to visit them. To get access to them, authorization is required first to enter a list of potential visitors.
With the arrival of the pandemic, Microsoft has created a virtual tour that is also not easy to access for security reasons. Xataka has been invited to one of these visits to find out what these facilities that are behind cloud computing are like.
Investment in Spain
The visit has allowed us to get an idea of what the Microsoft Azure cloud areas are like, one of which will be in Spain, more specifically in the Community of Madrid. Although Microsoft and Telefónica announced last year a collaboration agreement to create this cloud region in Spain, Noel Walsh, vice president of cloud operations and innovation at Microsoft, confirmed that the company will install “one of our latest rapid deployment modular data center designs” in Spain.
Cloud regions, such as Microsoft Spain Central, are a set of data centers within a certain perimeter. They have at least three availability zones; that is, unique physical locations within an Azure region. Each zone is made up of one or more data centers equipped with independent power, cooling, and networks.
These three zones within the region are close enough to ensure low latency but far enough apart so that, in the event of a natural disaster, not all of them are affected.
How is the Microsoft cloud
Behind Microsoft’s Azure services is a network of more than 60 data center regions, spread across 34 countries. Namely, more than 200 data centers.
Microsoft announced last year 14 new regions, especially in EMEA where, in addition to Spain, the company will also invest in Israel, Qatar, Poland, Italy, Greece, Austria, Sweden and Denmark. It should be noted, in this sense, that European companies are betting on giving the jump to the cloud but that they do it preferably from the hand of North American providers, like Microsoft.
To get an idea of the scale and size of these data centers, Microsoft offers the Western US region as a reference. Thus, in the state of Washington there are more than 20 buildings and each of them is large enough to house all the commercial airplanes that fly in a single day, according to the company.
The choice of the location of the data centers responds to several criteria. One of them is the proximity to population centers and because there is a market demand.
But, in addition, Microsoft is sure that it seeks to be able to depend on sustainable, varied and stable energy sources, capable of responding to the great demand for energy that these facilities demand. It also values that the location has multiple high-capacity network connections and that there is a significant qualified workforce.
As we said before, accessing the interior of these facilities is very restricted. Physical security begins at the perimeter of the facility, with security access gates and fences. As we get closer to the buildings inside, there are multiple layers of additional physical security. There are even biometric scanning systems so that only authorized employees can access certain areas.
Metal detectors are located in each entrance hall so that no device enters or leaves the data center.
Microsoft CTO Mark Russinovich explains that the company has more than 4 million servers, whose useful life is prolonged, on average, for four years. “We use Artificial Intelligence to monitor and predict failures in disks, fans, power supplies and other components. We repair or replace them as needed, ”he explains.
These servers evolve considerably over the years, varying the number of cores, the type of storage and the amount of RAM capacity and network performance.
So are the servers
Within the CPDs there are server rooms, distributed by racks or cabinets. For standard Azure storage, the company employs a high-capacity hot-plug blade that supports 88 three-and-a-half-inch hard drives logically divided into 422 hard drive segments.
While, for cloud workloads Microsoft uses other hardware, with more memory and storage. “They are a great multipurpose server,” Russinovich details. These Gen7 servers have 64 cores of up to 768 gigabytes of RAM, seven terabytes of SSD storage, and 50 gigabit-per-second network cards provided with an fpga.
“To support higher memory intensive workloads we have even larger servers. We affectionately call them Beast. They have up to 448 cores and up to 24 terabytes of RAM ”, details the company’s CTO.
Those responsible for the company ensure that they work directly with hardware suppliers to custom design the servers in these data centers.
Physical and logical security
During the visit to the CPD, Microsoft officials explained some of the measures, both physical and logical, that are taken in terms of security. Some can be as striking as the placement of some wooden panels behind the control panels.
“These panels of plywood play an important role in dust control. It is treated with a flame retardant coating that will not release particles, ”explained Russinovich.
These woods are in the network room, in charge of connecting the DPC with the Microsoft Global Network, made up of more than 280,000 kilometers of terrestrial and underwater fiber optics, “enough to surround our planet more than six and a half times”, according to Russinovich.
According to their data, this Microsoft network moves one hundred billion packets per second, processes more than 4 billion meeting minutes every day, and more than 1.8 trillion SQL query requests from Azure per day.
It should also be noted that Microsoft is allying with satellite companies so your data centers can be accessed from remote locations.
Throughout the tour, Microsoft placed particular emphasis on all the steps it is taking to guarantee the energy efficiency of these facilities. For example, its commitment not to use diesel-powered power generators by 2030 or to have a 100% renewable energy supply by 2025. It also aims to make more efficient use of water, especially when cooling the servers.
During the presentation was Christian Bellotti, from the Advanced Development Group in charge of some of the research projects in which Microsoft is immersed to improve the energy use of the CPDs. Among them, the Natick project or the most recent idea of immerse servers in boiling liquid.
In addition, Brian Janice, general director of energy at Microsoft, assured that, despite the increase in the use of CPDs, the industry has been able to maintain energy consumption “relatively constant in all data centers”, adding that “the environment in the cloud is much more efficient than the environment on-premise ”.
“Companies like Microsoft continue to grow. We are building one of the largest clouds in the world, but we are doing it in such a way that it is with sustainability and efficiency as priorities ”, he declared.
Finally, it should be noted that Microsoft allows all users to do this tour virtual por sus CPD.