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Microsoft Has 1 Million Servers. So What? 172

itwbennett writes "The only thing that's noteworthy about Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's recent disclosure that the company has one million servers in its data centers is that he decided to disclose it — most of the industry giants like to keep that information to themselves, says ITworld's Nancy Gohring. But just for fun, Amazon Web Services engineer James Hamilton did the math: One million servers equals 15–30 data centers, a $4.25 billion capital expense, and power consumption of 2.6TWh annually, or the amount of power that would be used by 230,000 homes in the U.S. Whether this is high or low, good or bad is impossible to know without additional metrics."
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Microsoft Has 1 Million Servers. So What?

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  • by quonsar ( 61695 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @06:29PM (#44322545) Homepage
    or two.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      If 1 million servers use the electricity that 230,000 homes would use, that means about 4 servers consume as much electricity as 1 home. That doesn't seem right.
      • It ain't because its ignoring the fact that chips have never been better with regards to power management and even on a server its rare for them to go full bore 24/7. This is one of the selling points i use to get the SMBs to move away from those damned P4s, you can take even a weak ULV chip like a Bobcat E350 and it'll score higher than that 3GHz P4 while using less under load than the P4 did idle and its even better when you deal with server chips, performance per watt has never been better so I seriously

      • No, that's about right. In addition to the wattage figures that others have put there is storage, networking, power conversion, power battery backup, a cooling multiplier of about 2x, and waste.

        If you think this is inefficient you should see what it costs to deliver a banana to Flagstaff, AZ or Fairbanks, AK.

  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <> on Thursday July 18, 2013 @06:31PM (#44322575) Homepage

    How can they afford them ? Oh, wait .....

  • One Million ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    They have one million servers, but how many are running Linux?

    • They have one million servers,

      . . . and two million hands to deal with the Metro interface . . .

      but how many are running Linux?

      They won't tell you that. Otherwise, they would owe SCO and Darl McBride a lot of money for the license fees . . .

      • They paid SCO the license fees in advance to support a bogus lawsuit against UNIX - some $50M and now have a permanent fully paid up irrevocable worldwide license to all of SCO's (now TSOG's) fictional intellectual property. This was a decade ago. Try to keep up.

        They even convinced some of their finance partners they would "backstop" SCO investments including Baystar and RBOC, and then reneged. Of course they made it up in other ways off the books since.

  • Breakdown? (Score:5, Funny)

    by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @06:32PM (#44322589)
    Ballmer doesn't give details about how their servers are used but I would assume 90% of them are used to run Exchange for Microsoft. I kid! I kid! Probably most are used by Bing.
    • by aliquis ( 678370 )

      And how many clients?

      Who many biggers in Thai are occupied translating to Swedish? Or is it just randomizing some words?

    • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

      I'd wager that at least 3/4ths of them are pretty evenly split up between:

      * Bing and related ad services
      * Online Services, eg. O365, Forefront, etc.

      The bulk of the majority are probably serving up customer facing data (eg. Update).

    • I think it's kinda hillarious that everyone so far has assumed they're all for their unused search service, instead of their unused cloud services (azure), or their unused cloud office 365 services.

    • Since they do mail hosting that's probably half right and a large proportion of them are mail servers. It probably works well most of the time, but I've only ever been exposed to that side of their business due to an utterly stupid fuckup that took them a week to resolve because that's how long the trouble ticket queue is - that's how little respect they had for their client with more than twenty thousand email accounts. I wasn't working for that client of theirs but instead trying to contact someone ther
    • He was probably trying to find a network drive in the add network drive dialog box and said to himself "Well goddammit! Where the fuck is it! There must be a million fucking computers listed in here"

      (throws chair, relaxes, and spins something more positive out of the experience)

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      Who's Mr. Linux?

      Personally, I'm trying to reduce the number of machines running at home, to the point that I'm looking at multi-head setups. I don't need six computers for two people when they're idle 90% of the time...
  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @06:34PM (#44322623)
    He simply said "servers." Most of them could be VMs running on a much smaller number of hosts.
    • While running VMs is more flexible, is there too much overhead in the tradeoff? Especially with a million servers and all.
      • While running VMs is more flexible, is there too much overhead in the tradeoff? Especially with a million servers and all.

        Which does need some consideration. Supposedly, in a perfect virtualized environment you'd see about 2-3% knocked off, in a headless configuration (no preferred guest OS VM installed on top of the host) and with perfect loading. However it's an imperfect world and no matter how you automagically mix and match loads, assuming it's allowed for those guests (think HIPAA, etc.), you're going to see more inefficiency. How much? No one seems to be releasing real numbers that I know of. It's quite literally a b

      • by cusco ( 717999 ) <> on Thursday July 18, 2013 @07:09PM (#44322945)
        Not really. Microsoft's Quincy data center started virtualizing servers and they saved so much electricity that they didn't hit Bonneville Power Association's target energy usage to qualify for the huge discount they normally get. To make up the difference they opened all the vents in the middle of winter, turned the heaters on full blast, and burned $70,000 in electricity in a week. The renegotiated the next year's contract with the BPA so they haven't had to repeat that particular bit of foolishness.
        • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @07:46PM (#44323215)
          And people wonder why we consider some management to be utter clowns not worth the oxygen? Both people that negotiated that mess would probably make a greater contribution to the world if they were introduced into the food chain instead of running large organisations. The replacements should then be chosen on merit instead of family connections or drinking buddies.
          • by kriston ( 7886 )

            Except that this actually did not happen. MSFT threatened to consume power but they did not actually do it. The utility reduced its fine to $60,000.

            A little fact goes a long way.

    • Stacks of xboxes, maybe.

    • He simply said "servers." Most of them could be VMs running on a much smaller number of hosts.

      LOL, not with Hyper-V it wouldn't be. ;)

  • So what is that is Linux Servers?
    What, about 6... Maybe 7.
  • by TWX ( 665546 )
    *pinkie up against corner of mouth* "One MEEELLLEYION Servers!"

    Ballmer kind of does look and act like a super-villain, doesn't he?
  • by hAckz0r ( 989977 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @06:59PM (#44322859)
    Ballmer might have talking (CEO double speak) about VM's, blades, or even CPU cores when referring nebulously to the term "servers", without actually defining what exactly he considers a server.

    For all we know, I have 16 servers running on my desktop OS, and another 160 attached to my home network by his definition. The real question is what value does it bring to his customers, not the quantity of them.

    • You're acting as it Ballmer kept track of the servers, and could possibly care about the differences between VMs, blades, or whatever. He's probably just regurgitating some number that one of his directs told him.
    • Hey now, 5 billion transistors!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's fun to picture how that conversation must have went.

      Ballmer: Minions! How many servers do we have? I need an answer RITE NAOOOOO

      Ballmer's Right Hand: IT director! How many servers do we have? Ballmer must know NAO!

      Bored IT Director, watching Austin Powers: One MILLION, sir.

      Ballmer's Right Hand: Excellent, thanks!

  • wtf? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JediJorgie ( 700217 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @07:02PM (#44322893)

    So does anyone on /. actually contribute to a conversation anymore?

    No wonder none of my coworkers come here anymore.

    • by Horshu ( 2754893 )
      I feel your pain.
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      here's a contribution. they said they would have 2x the power of your xbox for you in the cloud. how many xbox ones are they going to sell?

    • by booch ( 4157 )

      So does anyone on /. actually contribute to a conversation anymore?

      No wonder none of my coworkers come here anymore.

      Nobody comes here any more -- it's too crowded.

  • [] of six million Surface tablets.

    Perhaps they should install Android.

  • Google has 4x the market share, so a back of the envelope calculation suggests that Google has 4M servers.

  • If they weren't using Windows on those million servers, they could do the job with about 600,000 servers instead.
  • servers... servers... servers... servers.. servers...
  • How much of those servers (if run Windows, at least) have applied the patches that are not yet available for the normal customers because they are still in the NSA exploit queue?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If the servers ran Linux, maybe they'd only need 500,000 !!

  • For the benefit those of us who think that quoting power figures in units of A*Wh/B is just as stupid as using US customary units:

      2.6TWh/year = 297 MW

    • Facebook servers in Sweden are expected to use 1TWh/year when fully operational - in 3 data centers located next to each others. So looks like Facebook will use something around 100 000 cpu per center.

      Assuming the calculations is corrent.

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:05PM (#44323345) Homepage Journal

    One half exists just to supply updates to the other half.

  • Is there a way to get the NSA to disclose how many servers is has? Or Google for that matter? Sifting audio and video data for key words or copyrighted content must consume huge resources.

  • by JThaddeus ( 531998 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:27PM (#44323467)

    I attended the first ApacheCon in 1998. One of the top brass at Yahoo (founder? CEO?) spoke on open source software. I don't recall all the details, but I remember him saying that they had about 450 servers running BSD.

    During the Q&A, someone asked what version of BSD they were running. As I recall he said that over half were running the latest, another 30% or so were on one version earlier, and the rest--15-20%--were on an older version. This caused a mummer from the audience, and an ASF panelist asked for elaboration.

    Oh, replied they Yahooligan, why the old OS? Well it doesn't seem to make much sense to reboot a server that's run for over 18 months without a problem just to upgrade the OS.

    At this point the president of the ASF, Brian Behlendorf, stepped to the mic and said, "Let's hear Microsoft say that ."

    The crowd went wild (except for the two MS reps in front of me).

  • by cmay ( 687134 )
    No one here seems to be realizing that this is completely about Azure. Microsoft has been moving very strongly into the IaaS and PaaS market with the various Azure offerings over the last 5 years, and it's totally clear that they are making this a huge part of their business going forward. This is why they are promoting the number of servers they have, because providing those resources to people on demand is how they will make a large part of their revenue going forward.
    • by booch ( 4157 )

      Hmm, excellent analysis. I'm actually surprised that nobody else pointed that out.

  • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi&evcircuits,com> on Thursday July 18, 2013 @09:47PM (#44323933) Homepage

    Imagine the licensing cost to run 1M servers on MS Windows Server ($1k/CPU or something like that). They would save a lot of money switching to Linux!

  • by Thor Ablestar ( 321949 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @10:19PM (#44324083)

    ... Microsoft rejects YOU!

    Seriously, in 90-s in Russia FreeBSD was the system of choice of ISP. Not Linux, not Microsoft. And I have read that once upon a time in 90-s the FreeBSD FTP site took world's first place in total download. The second place was taken by Microsoft site.

    Hardware difference was shocking: FreeBSD was a quite old single processor Pentium Pro. It was housed in 5 ATX boxes, 4 of them were filled with SCSI HDD. Microsoft site was a complex of more than 50 computers. So I believe that FreeBSD is more than 50 times more efficient than Microsoft OS, in condition that both OS are serviced by properly educated personnel.

    Returning to this article, I believe that 980000 Microsoft servers just waste energy, space and personnel resources. It's enough energy for 225400 US homes.

    • by hawk ( 1151 )

      > And I have read that once upon a time in 90-s the FreeBSD FTP site
      > took world's first place in total download.

      Err . . . having been around then . . . the current FreeBSD machine tended to hold the ftp data rate records.

      This lasted for years, across many versions, and was generally not the latest & greatest hardware.


  • But... (Score:4, Funny)

    by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:50PM (#44324425)

    do they run Linux?

    Someone got to ask you know.

  • by Nikademus ( 631739 ) * <renaud&allard,it> on Friday July 19, 2013 @02:23AM (#44324827) Homepage

    I guess, now, people who know the number of servers at google are laughing hard at MS

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Friday July 19, 2013 @02:54AM (#44324891) Homepage
    Can we put that on the end of all Slashdot headlines from now on?
  • A quick run around those million servers shows the most used app is the System Idle Process. Microsoft's marketing department is already looking at how it can rebrand and promote this awesome app. Research suggests Linux doesn't even have a System Idle Process, so Microsoft is hoping to capitalise on this in the constant battle of Windows vs. Linux.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court