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Learn how Microsoft datacenter operations prepare for energy issues

Microsoft is working with customers, governments, and other stakeholders throughout the region to bring clarity, continuity, and compliance in the face of possible energy-saving strategies at the local and national level.

The war in Ukraine and the resultant shortage of natural gas has forced the European Union (EU) and European countries to proactively prepare for the possibility of more volatile energy supplies—both this winter and beyond. Microsoft is working with customers, governments, and other stakeholders throughout the region to bring clarity, continuity, and compliance in the face of possible energy-saving strategies at the local and national level. In solidarity with Europe, where even essential services are likely to be asked to find energy savings, we have validated plans and contingencies in place to responsibly reduce energy use in our operations across Europe, and we will do so in a way that minimizes risk to customer workloads running in the Microsoft Cloud.

We want to share some of the contingencies and mitigations that our teams have put in place to responsibly operate our cloud services.

Supporting grid stability by responsibly managing our energy consumption

The power that is consumed by Microsoft from the utilities is primarily used to power our network and servers, cooling systems, and other datacenter operations. We have contingency plans to contribute to energy grid stability, while working to ensure minimal disruption to our customers and their workloads, including:

  1. The scale and distribution of the Microsoft datacenters gives us the ability to reposition non-regional platform as a service (PaaS) services, internal infrastructure, and many of our internal non-customer research and development (R&D) workloads to other nearby regions, while still meeting our data residency and EU Data Boundary commitments.
  2. Actively working with local governments and large organizations to closely monitor and respond to power consumption to ensure grid stability and minimal disruption to our customers’ critical workloads. We are working with local utility providers to ensure our systems are ready for a range of circumstances.
  3. Our datacenter regions are planned and built to withstand grid emergencies. When needed, we quickly transition to backup power sources to reduce impact on the grid without impacting customer workloads.

Resilient infrastructure investment

Microsoft is responsible for providing our customers with a resilient foundation in the Microsoft Cloud—in how it is designed, operated, and monitored to ensure availability. We make considerable investments in the platform itself—physical things like our datacenters, as well as software things like our deployment and maintenance processes.

We strive to provide our cloud-using customers with “five-nines” of service availability, meaning that the datacenter is operational 99.999 percent of the time. However, knowing that service interruptions and failures happen for a myriad of reasons, we build systems designed with failure in mind.

We have Azure Availability Zones (AZs) in every country in which we operate datacenter regions. AZ’s are comprised of a minimum of three zone locations, each with independent power, cooling and networking, allowing customers to spread their infrastructure and applications across discrete and dispersed datacenters for added resiliency and availability.

Battery backup and backup generators are an additional resiliency capability we implement and are utilized during power grid outages and other service interruptions so we can meet service levels and operational reliability. We have contracted access to additional fuel supplies to maintain generator operations, and we also hold critical spares to maintain generator health. We are ready to use backup generators across Europe, when necessary, to keep our services running in case of a serious grid emergency. 

Across our global infrastructure, it’s not unusual for us to work with a heightened operational awareness, due to external factors. For instance, severe winter weather events in Texas in 2021 caused substantial pressure on the Texas energy grid. Microsoft was able to remove its San Antonio datacenter from using grid power. Although Microsoft’s onsite substations were designed with redundancy, we were able to quickly transition to our tertiary redundant systems—generators. These systems kept the datacenters running, with zero impact to our cloud customers, while the utility grid could ensure residential homes stayed warm. During this event, we maintained 100 percent uptime for our customers, while removing our workloads from the grid.

Resiliency recommendations for cloud architectures

This is a challenging time for organizations monitoring the growing energy concerns in Europe. We are providing important infrastructure for the communities where we operate, and our customers are counting on us to provide reliable cloud services to run their critical workloads. We recognize the importance of continuity of service for our customers, including those providing essential services: health care providers, police and emergency responders, financial institutions, manufacturers of critical supplies, grocery stores and health agencies. Organizations wondering what more they can do to improve the reliability of their applications, or wondering how they can reduce their own energy consumption, can consider the following:

  1. Customers who have availed themselves of high availability tools, including geo-redundancy, should be unaffected by impacts to a single datacenter region. For software as a service (SaaS) services like Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Power Platform, the business continuity and resiliency are managed by Microsoft. For Microsoft Azure, customers should always consider designing their Azure workloads with high availability in mind.

    We always encourage customers to have a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) plan in place as part of the Microsoft Well-Architected Framework, which you can read more about. Customers who want to proactively migrate their Azure resources from one region to another can do so at any time. Find out how.

  2. On-premises customers can reduce their own energy consumption by moving their applications, workloads, and databases to the cloud. The Microsoft Cloud can be up to 93 percent more energy efficient than traditional enterprise datacenters, depending on the specific comparison being made. Discover more here. Start your sustainability journey today.
  3. Energy use in our datacenters is driven by customer use. Customers can play a part in reducing energy consumption by following green software development guidelines, including shutting down unused server instances, and sustainable application design. Further information available here.

We continue to improve the energy efficiency of our datacenters, in our ongoing commitment to make our global infrastructure more sustainable and efficient. As countries and energy providers consider options to reduce their consumption of electricity in the event of an energy capacity shortage, we are working with grid operators on this evolving situation. With the scale, expertise, and partnerships that we operate, we are confident that our risk mitigation activities will offset any potential disruption to our customers running their critical workloads in the Microsoft Cloud.