Microsoft to Invest Half-Billion Dollars in Va. Data Center

BOYDTON, VA — It appears that Microsoft's long-awaited "Gen 4" data center is about to become a reality, and will plant its roots in Virginia soil.

The company's next-generation facilities, which we first profiled back in 2008, was officially announced by Virginia's governor, Bob McDonnell, who touted the significant economic kick the data center will bring to the area.

"Microsoft is a household name and securing this global project is a significant economic win for Virginia," Governor McDonnell said in a statement. "The company's search process was long and competitive, and a great team of players came together to show Microsoft that Mecklenburg County was the right fit for its new version of a state-of-the-art data center. This project represents the largest investment project in the history of Southern Virginia. It will further bolster the Commonwealth's standing as a leader in the Information Technology sector, while creating new jobs for our citizens and spurring economic development throughout the region."

Microsoft will invest as much as $499 million in the data center, creating as many as 50 long-term jobs in the area.

A number of factors led Microsoft to choose Virginia over North Carolina and Texas as the locale for the data center, including work by the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative to provide high-speed, reliable access to its open-access fiber optic network. In his statement, the governor also highlighted the energy sourced from Dominion Virginia Power, saying "Access to an extremely reliable electric supply and competitively priced electricity from environmentally responsible generation sources were critical site location factors for Microsoft."

According to the Energy Information Administration, Virginia gets one-third of its energy from nuclear power, nearly one-third from natural gas, and nearly half its energy from coal-fired power plants. The state has created a renewable energy portfolio goal of generating 12 percent of its energy from green sources by 2022.

The data center itself will showcase a number of Microsoft's innovations. As we wrote in 2008:

 

[T]he new design ideas aim to make data centers modular, scalable, efficient and as low-cost as possible. By centralizing and standardizing the components of the data center, Microsoft says it will be able to deliver high performance data centers anywhere in the world quickly and cheaply.

 

Among the environmental benefits of the Generation 4 design are goals for a very lower PUE ratio: the Power Usage Effectiveness is a ratio developed by the Green Grid to determine how much of the energy going into a data center is powering computing hardware, as opposed to auxiliary functions like lighting and cooling. By 2012, Manos says Microsoft's Generation 4 data centers will have a PUE of 1.12, among the lowest ratios yet achieved.

Additionally, by working toward a chiller-free data center design, Microsoft hopes to make water conservation part of the plan: Manos says the data center of the future could conceivably eliminate the use of water.