Envisioning the Data Center of the Future

by Catherine Crim

In 2008, a group of Microsoft employees organized an Open Space symposium to address the questions: What does it mean to serve the content needs of the future? What will a data center look like in 3-5-10 years? What does it mean for a data center to be “green”?

The urgency of these questions and shared passion for the topic proved broad enough to galvanize a significant group of stakeholders to come together for three days where there was no agenda and very little information on what might transpire. The event brought together over 100 Microsoft employees representing such diverse groups as Global Foundation Services, Data Center Services, Hardware and Standards, Microsoft Research, Hotmail, Search, Windows Core, Windows Server and more. Many participants commented that this was the first time so many people with a stake in our data centers and services had met in one location.

The meeting began with an open invitation to bring issues participants had a passion for, announce them to the group and hold a session with those who wished to attend. Within fifteen minutes the agenda was filled -- including a wide range of topics such as: “Power Management and Conservation in the Data Center” and “Engineering Products and Services to work in a value chain.” Over a dozen self-organizing work groups were established and continue to move these ideas forward. This self-organizing event was the beginning of an ongoing process a number of teams are engaged in: experimenting with the emergence of appropriate structure for the task at hand. It is with this opportunity in mind that we look forward to the upcoming event on “Leadership in a Self-organizing World.”