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Project Carnation: Reducing Energy Consumption through Data Center Storage Consolidation


Published: June 2010

The following content may no longer reflect Microsoft’s current position or infrastructure. This content should be viewed as reference documentation only, to inform IT business decisions within your own company or organization.

Project Carnation is a major storage consolidation effort that helped Microsoft IT reduce energy consumption, data center space, and operating expenses.


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Data center services have evolved from stand-alone servers with direct attached storage to mid-range Storage Area Network (SAN) technology over the past five years. This has resulted in improved, but not optimal, use of data center space. Microsoft IT needed to further consolidate storage in order to recoup floor space and lower power consumption in the data center

Microsoft initiated Project Carnation, which involved migrating 211 storage frames at the end of their lifespan to 11 high-density SAN devices. With the newer technology, Microsoft was able to further consolidate storage, improving both redundancy and scalability of the storage platform while dramatically lowering power consumption.

  • Reduced power used by 250% per terabyte of storage
  • Achieved net power savings of 628 kVA
  • Achieved net space savings of 218 racks
  • Gained 3.2 petabytes of new storage
  • Improved reporting across storage allocation
  • Simplified storage management


At Microsoft, we are committed to software and technology innovation that helps people and organizations around the world improve the environment. Our goals are to reduce the negative impact of our operations and products and to drive responsible environmental leadership. Microsoft IT faces increasing server and energy use as Microsoft continues to grow. We also face space and power capacity limitations in our data centers. Project Carnation helped reduce energy consumption, data center space, and operating expense.

Through consolidation and smart management, businesses can reduce costs by storing more data in the same physical space and lowering power consumption. Microsoft realizes that the carbon footprint for data centers must be reduced. As Microsoft's data centers evolved from using stand-alone physical servers to using mid-range Storage Area Network (SAN) technology over the past several years, improvements were made in the areas of redundancy and scalability. However, Microsoft did not optimize data center space until implementing modern technology in the form of high-density SAN devices. In implementing these high-density SAN devices, Microsoft has been able to consolidate storage space even more, further improving both redundancy and scalability.

To achieve this consolidation, Microsoft undertook Project Carnation. The goal of this project was to migrate 211 older storage frames to 11 modern high-density SAN devices. This project spanned seven primary Microsoft IT data centers around the world. The primary goals of this project were to conserve power used by the data center and reduce the use of floor space. In addition, Microsoft was also able to improve reporting across storage allocation, improve future performance optimization capabilities, increase productivity, and simplify storage management.

Project Carnation is named after the city of Carnation, Washington, which boasts a population of about 2,000 people and sits not far from the main Microsoft campus. The estimated savings from this project are enough to power the city of Carnation for an entire year, achieving nearly a 250% power savings per terabyte of stored data.

The results of Project Carnation show that consolidating data center storage using modern technology reduces power use and saves space. These efforts have proven that environmental and financial sustainability can be accomplished at the same time. The techniques Microsoft used during Project Carnation can be implemented by other companies, as well.

"Our goal is to reduce our carbon emissions per unit of revenue by at least 30 percent compared with 2007 levels by 2012. Steps we'll take to achieve this include improving energy efficiency in our buildings and operations, reducing air travel, and increasing our use of renewable energy."

Steve Balmer in a memo to Microsoft employees on March 11, 2009

The Consolidation Process

Although the consolidation process was not technically complex, it did require a great deal of coordination with several teams in order to minimize downtime for applications and, by extension, for the businesses and users concerned. Ensuring a successful consolidation meant taking the time to provide solid project management and coordinating with the teams involved.

To start the consolidation process of migrating the 211 older storage frames to the 11 high-density SAN devices during Project Carnation, Microsoft IT performed a frame-by-frame analysis of servers in order to determine how many servers were connected to the concerned storage and what kind of servers they were.

After this data was obtained, Microsoft IT communicated the details of the project to the server owners, ensuring that they understood the phases, timing, and implications of the project.

The migration happened in two phases, each of which required downtime for the servers. The first phase involved a six- hour downtime. During this time, Microsoft IT took the following actions:

  1. Restarted servers to ensure they were healthy to start with
  2. Installed the appropriate configuration software to connect to the storage and restarted the servers again.
  3. Installed software used to migrate data to new SAN storage and restarted the servers again.
  4. Began the copy process to migrate the data to the new SAN storage.

At this point, control of the servers was handed back to the server owners. The copy process took approximately two days and was performed while the servers were live in order to minimize interruptions for users.

After the copy process was complete, Microsoft asked for the second downtime for the servers. During this time, Microsoft IT took the following actions:

  1. Ensured that the copy process had completed successfully.
  2. Pointed each server to the new SAN storage location.
  3. Removed the software used to copy the data.
  4. Performed quality checks.

At this point, control of the servers was again handed back to server owners for final testing and sign-off on the migration. After all servers on a frame were migrated, Microsoft IT kept data intact on the old frame for a period of 14 days to ensure that no problems were encountered. No problems were encountered during the project and Microsoft did not need to use the old frames again. After 14 days, Microsoft IT decommissioned the old frames by erasing the data and removing them from the data center.


Project Carnation was a resounding success, allowing Microsoft IT to meet or exceed all of the goals for the project and showing benefits in following areas:

  • Power Efficiency. The storage consolidation effort will save 628 kVA in device consumption. This energy savings is the equivalent to the power consumed in one year by the number of homes in the city of Carnation, Washington, significantly reducing the environmental impact of data center storage.
  • Data Center Space. Microsoft IT was able to save 218 racks of data center floor space. This provided Microsoft significant cost savings by helping extend the life of the existing data centers and avoiding the cost of building additional data center facilities.
  • Simplified Management. In consolidating 211 older storage frames to 11 high-density SAN devices, Microsoft IT was able to reduce the number of managed systems by 96%. The project also resulted in added flexibility in managing space and power in the data centers. It also reduced the number of required firmware updates for storage hardware and improved reporting across storage devices to help better align with forecasted storage needs.
  • Hard Drive Savings. Project Carnation resulted in 21,423 fewer hard drives. This provided a dramatic reduction of cost by avoiding the need to purchase large quantities of hard drive replacements or perform data cleansing of so many hard drives, both company requirements.
    In the current storage environment, 98% of storage capacity is allocated at the storage array level, but only 60% of hosts are utilized. The results of Project Carnation show that it is possible, using Virtual (Thin) Provisioning functionality, to achieve an environment where only 75% of storage capacity is allocated and 100% of hosts are utilized. This results in a net storage savings of 15-25%.
  • Future Growth and Performance Optimization. The storage consolidation effort provided an improved solution for storage allocation and increased capacity and flexibility by making whitespace a shared pool for future growth. In earlier solutions, whitespace is typically made available only to the existing host. When whitespace is added to a shared pool, it becomes available to all hosts connected to the new consolidated storage array.
  • Improved Customer Service. After consolidating storage using virtual storage pools, Microsoft IT needed to perform less provisioning and could analyze performance issued more quickly.

The detailed results of savings gained by the Project Carnation effort are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Project Carnation business case: August, 2009
Figure 1. Project Carnation business case: August, 2009

Best Practices

This section lists best practices and lessons learned by Microsoft IT during Project Carnation.

  • Ensure that all pre-checks are in place before the migration begins.
  • Ensure the overall health of servers and clusters prior to migration.
  • Consider performance requirements prior to migration
  • Communicate with server owners and other interested parties before and during the migration process.

Good project management is essential to a successful migration.

Lessons Learned

  • Securing and managing approvals of downtime from application teams was a pain point in the project. Microsoft assumed the majority of the complexity of the project would be implementing the technology, but most of the project’s complexity was due to project management issues. Work closely with application teams to review servers before the migration so that they can adequately prepare for downtime.
  • Analyzing servers before and during migration is a good time to discover and resolve server issues with the cooperation of the server owners.
  • Engage public relations groups to publish a Green IT press release on the benefits of positive Green IT and carbon footprint savings.
  • Carnation is a very self-learning process environment. Making changes to quality processes and procedures when a mistake or problem was encountered, by doing this no mistake or problem was repeated resulting is quality migration work. Planning and procedures established ahead avoided lot of issues. By proactively using Microsoft internal tools we did health checks on Operating systems and Cluster validations before migrations, resolved the problem with servers being offline longer and minimized the agreed downtime windows and server problems were proactively identified.


Environmental sustainability is important to Microsoft. In being a steward of the environment, Microsoft has also realized direct business benefits. Through the storage consolidation efforts undertaken with Project Carnation, Microsoft has built upon its commitment to the environment while simultaneously reducing costs and better positioning itself for the future.

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft's environmental initiatives, go to:


For more information about Microsoft Green IT solutions, go to:


For more information about Environmental Sustainability at Microsoft IT, go to:


To view the IT Showcase video about Data Center Consolidation, go to:


For more information about Microsoft products or services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada information Centre at (800) 563-9048. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information through the World Wide Web, go to:



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