Microsoft develops a portable, box-shaped data center to bring the cloud to remote areas

Microsoft has developed what it calls the Azure Modular Datacenter, or the MDC. It’s a modular, portable data center that can extend satellite range anywhere in the world, thanks to close integration with Elon Musk’s satellite broadband service. Microsoft hopes to work together with Musk’s SpaceX to further “link up” Starlink and Azure, though it remains to be seen what the fruits of that partnership might look like down the line.

Microsoft lists several potential use cases for the MDC, including “mobile command centers,” mineral exploration, humanitarian assistance missions, and anything else that requires “high intensity, secure computing” on Azure.

Microsoft promises full security with the MDC, from both physical dangers, such as adverse weather, high temperatures, and humidity, as well as less-obvious risks like radio frequencies.

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.

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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