PDC Part VI: Day 3 Keynote: Interesting stuff at Microsoft Research

I enjoyed the Day 3 Keynote which was devoted to Microsoft Research. Having been a lab rat doing basic science research in grad school myself, I always love to hear about interesting research going on.

The keynote speaker was Rick Rashid, Senior VP of Microsoft Research. He started out with some stats on Microsoft Research. I hadn’t realized how big the research department was. With over 850 Ph.D.s it’s larger than any University. In fact, they run like a University and they measure their success using similar metrics that a University would use.

The demos were great – Surface SecondLight was wild, the Boku educational game was something I would love to have myself, the Microsoft Worldwide Telescope was mind-boggling, and the discussion of how computer science research is being applied to life sciences was fascinating. (If you have time, check out the PDC Day 3 keynote webcast or you can read a transcript of the keynote here.)

But the inspiration for this blog post was from the portion discussing sensors that are being used to “green” data centers.

It’s a no-brainer that a modern data center may use sensors placed strategically throughout the data center or even in servers, which can be used to generate heat maps. And the heat maps can, in turn, be used as inputs to control a more sophisticated HVAC system. The feedback system helps optimize the cooling and reduce power. If the discussion was just that – then I wouldn’t have posted this.

What I was really intrigued by was that Microsoft is deploying these sensors throughout their Cloud infrastructure, but at the same time taking advantage of virtualization. They can actually move around the location of where the computing is occurring in order to further optimize their cooling needs to save power even further. So if all of a sudden, some part of their data center receives a lot of computing activity – then the system can automatically distribute the computing activity instances to cooler parts of the data center – using the power of virtualization. I thought that was totally cool (excuse the pun).

Takeshi Eto
VP Marketing and Business Development

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