Microsoft made a portable data center in a box

Microsoft has created a portable data center to bring cloud computing to remote environments. The modular data center is essentially a big box of servers, designed for places where it’s difficult to supply reliable cloud connectivity. Microsoft is partnering with satellite operators for connectivity, allowing this Azure Modular Datacenter (MDC) to be used as a mobile command center, in humanitarian assistance, or even military missions.

“Around the world, there are significant cloud computing and storage needs in areas with adverse conditions, where low communication, disrupted network availability and limited access to specialized infrastructure would have previously prevented taking advantage of cloud computing,” says Bill Karagounis, manager of Microsoft’s Azure Global Industry Sovereign Solutions. “The MDC solves this by bringing Azure to these environments, providing datacenter scale compute resources closest to where they’re needed.”

Microsoft’s data center will operate in a variety of environments.
Image: Microsoft

Microsoft’s MDC is ruggedized and housed in a radio frequency (RF) shielded unit, meaning it should operate in challenging climates. The data center will provide compute and storage capabilities, and it will operate with an Azure Stack Hub architecture.

One of the first big partners for this modular and portable data center is Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. Microsoft is launching an Azure Space initiative to work with more businesses in the space industry to try to push Azure as a key provider of storage, connectivity, and cloud compute. The portable data center will connect to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband, and Microsoft and SpaceX are planning to link up Starlink and Azure further in the future.

This new MDC is the latest in Microsoft’s efforts to make data centers more portable. The software maker sunk an entire data center to the bottom of the Scottish sea back in 2018, with 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of storage on board. That data center recently resurfaced, and Microsoft revealed that its underwater data center had just one-eighth the failure rate of a land-based data center.

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