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Getting a gander

With the latest iteration of its data center design, Microsoft has created self-contained units that can be pre-built and shipped anywhere in the world.

Microsoft showed a Windows Azure unit based on the fourth-generation design at November's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.

This latest design expands on the notion of plugging in a containerful of servers by also integrating power and cooling into the unit.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Ina Fried/CNET
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A versatile design

This is Microsoft's fourth generation of data center design. Units like this one can operate in a much wider range of temperatures--from 50 degrees to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and from 20 percent to 80 percent relative humidity.

The fourth-generation units are newer even than the containers found at Microsoft's recently opened Chicago data center, which CNET toured earlier this year. This one is about half as long as the containers in Chicago and holds hundreds rather than thousands of servers.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Ina Fried/CNET
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Inside the unit

Empty, this container weighs 11,000 pounds. With the servers added, the weight more than doubles to 27,000 pounds.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Ina Fried/CNET
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It's the cloud, baby

Shown is a fourth-generation data center unit on display at the University of Washington during Steve Ballmer's cloud-computing speech on March 4.

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Different sizes

Microsoft is considering a number of sizes for the ITPACs (IT Pre-Assembled Components).

The units could house anywhere from 400 to 2,500 servers and draw 200 kilowatts to 600 kilowatts of power, depending on the number of servers and the mix between compute and storage.

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