Microsoft trying to blow the roof off data-center design

has seen the future of the data center, and oddly enough it's missing a roof.

The company's future , which will be its de facto standard in five years, is a cross between an electrical switching station, an RV-park and the closing "warehouse" scene from the 1981 film "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

The company envisions a set of prefabricated containers the size of a semi-trailer filled with as many as 2,000 preconfigured servers. The containers can be parked next to and plugged into pre-built mechanical, electrical, cooling and security components. In essence, it is a giant collection of that can grow and shrink based on need.

The container portion of the idea is nothing revolutionary. Microsoft is installing them in its Chicago data center. introduced a server container called Project Blackbox in 2006 and received a patent in 2007 on its "mobile data center" stored in a standard shipping container, which unlike Sun's Blackbox, could be clustered in the same modular fashion that Microsoft is proposing.

The container idea also has its who say they are rife with electrical and mechanical concerns, have power management and cooling issues, present a single point of failure, and are susceptible to damage during shipping.

Microsoft, however, is not just talking about containers, but the configuration of the entire data center.