At the DatacenterDynamics conference in New York, Microsoft’s Kevin Timmons outlined some prototype work his unit is doing to design its next gen of data centers, in collaboration with Microsoft Research. His vision is radically different from most of what the company already has in place. The company is field-testing something Timmons calls IT PACs, or IT preassembled components, which’re small, self-contained units that’re assembled off-site and can be linked together to build out an entire data center. Microsoft, he said, is facing the same challenges as most data center operators. It needs the ability to ramp up capacity in short order, but would like to avoid the massive up-front costs and long lead times required to build out traditional data centers. Given this set of conditions, Microsoft's goal for building its next set of data centers is "ultra-modularity," Timmons said. Instead of paying US$400 million or more up front to build a data center, Microsoft would prefer to purchase some land, build a sub-station and then populate the acreage with modular units of servers as demand grows. "We want to view our data centers as more of a traditional manufacturing supply chain, instead of monolithic builds," he said. "It won't all be built on-site in one shot."