Search by the Truckload

Microsoft has said on more than one occasion that it is in the process of getting serious about its involvement in search. This past week the company announced that it will start construction on a new data center in Des Moines, Iowa. On the surface this seems pretty boring until you start digging for detail on the project. One of the most interesting tidbits is that Microsoft is planning to utilize a new data center design model that involves deploying banks of servers contained within standard shipping containers.

You might be asking yourself ‘what the heck do servers in shipping containers have to do with search engines or search engine marketing?’ In one of my previous blog posts I covered Microsoft’s desire to increase their share in the online advertising market from 6% to 40% in the next 3-5 years. Quite simply, Microsoft currently doesn’t have the capacity necessary to handle the amount of traffic that would come from that level of search share. They plan to address this issue by buying prefabricated modular data centers that are contained within custom 20 or 40 foot shipping containers.

Many companies are turning to data centers-in-a-box (aka: shipping containers) when they need to quickly and efficiently expand their processing capacity. A number of companies including Sun Microsystems, IBM, HP, Dell, Verari, and Rackable Systems are using this new modular approach to building computing infrastructure. Even Google has gotten its name in the game since being awarded a patent late last year for “Modular data centers with modular components suitable for use with rack or shelf mount computing systems.”

Microsoft has said it is currently planning to add 10,000 servers a month into the foreseeable future. So the next time you make a search on Live, check your Hotmail inbox, send an IM with Messenger or even play around with Virtual Earth there will be a good chance that your query is being handled by one of these new shipping container powerhouses.