A Trip to the Farm

Last Friday I took a trip with a bunch of other Microsofties to the MSN data center in San Jose to see the Hotmail server farm. After you pass the biometric security (hand scanners) and go up the stairs to reach the raised floors, it’s a site to be seen. Servers as far as you can see in either direction. If you’ve ever wondered what the sound of X billion emails, it sounds a lot like a jet engine. The main mail clusters are housed in two long corridors with the backs of the computers pointing at each other with a walk way in the middle. You stand there and it feels like you’re in the middle of a Santa Ana wind: hot and dry air coming at you. Along side the mail servers are the uncountable number of web servers (front doors in MSN parlance), which go on for rack after rack after rack. It’s really quite something. Aparently, the data center has over 11 megawatts of backup power available to it. That really doesn’t mean anything until you learn that 1 megawatt is enough to power 10,000 homes, thus the facility could run 110,000 homes by itself (think Sunnyvale + Cupertino combined).