MILPITAS, Calif. – Big data centers want lower power flash chips and integrated processors, said an executive who helps design Microsoft's warehouse-sized facilities. Containers are also on their way out in favor of larger building blocks, he said.
"We are maniacally focused on performance per Watt per dollar," said Dileep Bhandarkar, chief architect of Microsoft's global foundation services group that runs an undisclosed number of global data centers.
Electrical and mechanical issues consume up to 80 percent of the budget for the big data centers than draw 25 to 50 Megawatts and house tens of thousands of servers each. "That's why it's a big deal if we can save even one Watt on a server processor," he said, speaking at an annual conference here hosted by LSI Corp.
Specifically, Bhandarkar called for a new flash variant he called "cloud multi-level (CMLC) flash" that has moderate performance and lower power consumption. "We have started to use MLC flash drives because they give 30 to 40 percent more performance in some apps and have an added cost that’s lower than that, and they only drive power up two or three percent," he said.
Microsoft uses the flash drives in two configurations, one with a hardware cache controller and one without. "I don’t see flash drives replacing hard disks—they are just another layer in the memory hierarchy," he said.
"But we don’t need maximum bandwidth in flash--that's expensive and the power goes up," Bhandarkar said. "I don’t want a drive with two million IOPS--I'll settle for one with 20,000 IOPS, but there's an opportunity for the industry to define what I call cloud MLC," he said.
Microsoft operates tens of data centers in at least eight countries to run more than 200 services including its Bing search, MSN, Hotmail and Azure cloud services.