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Microsoft in your community

Frequently asked questions about our datacenters

Understanding datacenters

What is a datacenter and why do we need them?

Datacenters provide the physical infrastructure for the technology we depend on at work and in our personal lives. Whenever you open an app on your phone, join a virtual classroom or meeting, snap and save photos, or play a game with your friends online, you are using a datacenter. Local businesses, government, hospitals, and schools rely on datacenters every day to deliver goods and services to you. Take a virtual step inside a datacenter

What impact do datacenters have on the local economy?

According to research provided by the US Chamber of Commerce, local datacenter infrastructure supports and stimulates the development of datacenter and construction jobs, improves local infrastructure via tax revenue, and bolsters other technology companies that support these projects. Similar benefits occur outside the US in global communities that host datacenters.

Watch this video to learn more

Datacenter sustainability

What are Microsoft’s commitments to sustainability?

How much water is required to cool datacenters?

Our datacenter designs minimize water use.  Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE) is a key metric relating to the efficient and sustainable operations of our datacenters and is a crucial aspect as we work towards our commitment to be water positive by 2030.

WUE is calculated by dividing the number of liters of water used for humidification and cooling by the total annual amount of power (measured in kWh) needed to operate our datacenter IT equipment.

There are variables that can impact WUE—many of which relate to the location of the datacenter. Humid locations often have more atmospheric water, while arid locations have very little. Datacenters in colder parts of the world, like Sweden and Finland operate in naturally cooler environments so require less water for cooling. Visit How Microsoft measures datacenter water and energy use to improve Azure Cloud sustainability for more information.

Do you put additives/chemicals in the water?

Datacenter cooling water is typically not treated with any chemicals or additives. When quality of the available water is not adequate for use in cooling systems, water treatment is pursued in the same way municipal drinking water is treated to remove excessive hardness or to prevent harmful bacterial growth.

How is water discharged from datacenter?

Water from our cooling systems is discharged back to the local wastewater utility treatment plant, following local regulations.

Do datacenters use renewable energy?

Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human time scale—such as solar energy, wind power, hydroelectric power, geothermal energy, tidal power, and biofuels. By 2025, the Microsoft cloud will shift to 100 percent supply of renewable energy, meaning that we will have power purchase agreements (PPA) for green energy contracted for 100 percent of carbon-emitting electricity consumed by all our datacenters, buildings, and campuses.

Watch this video to learn more about datacenters and renewable energy

Why do datacenters have generators?

Datacenters use fossil fuel generators for back-up power during the rare emergency. Microsoft is constantly pursuing opportunities to shift to carbon free backup generation, including through the eventual use of batteries. As this technology continues to mature, the goal is to extend the duration of the batteries—from a few minutes to several hours. The long duration batteries have the potential to be a replacement for diesel generators.

Do datacenters generate waste?

Microsoft’s Circular Centers enable us to reuse and repurpose decommissioned cloud computing hardware from our datacenters to find new life in schools, as resources for skills training programs, and much more.  The goal of our Circular Center program is to reuse 90 percent of our cloud computing hardware assets by 2025.

Globally, Microsoft datacenters reuse 78 percent of our end-of-life assets and components; the remaining 22 percent of materials are recycled. Additionally, Microsoft is conducting research and development to improve waste diversion by determining new recycling solutions for used air filters and fiber optic cables.

How do Microsoft’s cloud services compare on energy efficiency to businesses running their own datacenters?

Microsoft’s cloud services offer customers an energy efficient alternative to running their own private datacenters. According to an analysis by Microsoft in partnership with WSP, Microsoft Cloud services can be as much as 93 percent more energy efficient than traditional enterprise datacenters.

Working at a datacenter

How many people will work at the datacenter?

Microsoft datacenters represent a capital-intensive investment and long-term commitment to the community.  Typically, when the first building is operational we hire about 50 full-time employees and vendors. As we build out the subsequent buildings, additional staff is hired and generally we employ 50 full time and vendors per building.

What types of jobs will be available at the datacenter, and how do you apply?

Microsoft datacenters create family-wage operations and construction jobs, here are a couple of our most common roles inside the datacenter:

For the full list of positions, visit Microsoft jobs in your community or to build the skills needed to work at the datacenter, check out our Datacenter Academy

Living near a datacenter

What do datacenter campuses look like?

Each site has a unique design but typically datacenter buildings resemble windowless warehouses. Most often, we build several datacenter buildings per datacenter campus location. Microsoft uses a standard design template with fencing around the perimeter for security and safety purposes.  Where possible we strive to include vegetative screening.

Do datacenter campuses create a lot of traffic?

Unlike distribution warehouses, datacenters do not have around the clock truck traffic coming and going but might receive occasional deliveries of machinery, parts, office supplies, and other equipment. With datacenters employing approximately 50 people per building, across a 24/7 period, the parking lot traffic is also minimal. Employees will arrive and depart the datacenter on staggered schedules, so there will not be traffic from large shift changes.

Do datacenters create noise?

Microsoft datacenters typically have three sources for datacenter sound: Employee vehicles and occasional truck deliveries; backup generators; and heating, ventilation, and air-cooling equipment (HVAC).  Typically, building setbacks exist, creating distance between backup generators and making the sound volume insignificant. Find out more about how we minimize datacenter sounds.

What kind of exterior lighting is used at datacenters?

Microsoft datacenters include perimeter fencing and 24-hour exterior lighting to protect our employees and operations. At our datacenter properties, artificial exterior lighting is strategically placed both around the buildings, and in places such as parking lots, roadways, sidewalks, and perimeter fencing. Lighting placement and fixtures are designed in a thoughtful way, taking into consideration human safety, visual comfort and building aesthetics and identification, while being respectful of the surroundings. Learn more about our lighting best practices.

Are there electric and magnetic field health risks from the datacenter substation

Anything that uses electric power emits electric and magnetic fields, including everyday household items like lamps, wiring, stoves, hairdryers, and microwaves.

Energy suppliers regularly receive these sort of questions related to substations and power lines and encourage community members to review reputable online studies from sources like the World Health Organization.

How does Microsoft mitigate construction impacts on the community?

Microsoft’s general contractors are responsible for being compliant with local noise ordinances and specifications outlined during the permitting process. Once work hours are known, we use the Microsoft in Your Community blog to inform the community of the general contractor’s permitted work hours as part of our construction overview.  When there is a need for traffic control, our general contractors use traffic marshals to ensure the safety of the community and keep traffic moving.