Azure Modular Datacenter – Mission resiliency for the field

Helicopter lowering items for Microsoft Modular Datacenter.

The need for mission-critical computing

Defense and national security missions often occur away from headquarters and in the field, where things happen quickly and rapid decision making can translate to success or failure.

With Azure Modular Datacenter (MDC), Microsoft has brought key aspects of the Azure cloud to the edge, ready to deliver enterprise-class compute, storage, and Azure services wherever the mission needs them.

Built for the field

Person in wooded field walking towards remote Microsoft Modular Datacenter

Traditional methods of providing IT solutions in the field suffer from several challenges, including:

  • Limited, intermittent, or non-existent network connections
  • Hardware limitations and cost constraints
  • Application integration, orchestration, and cloud service delivery across widely varying network conditions

The Azure Modular Datacenter solves traditional challenges for IT solutions in the field, as it can run fully disconnected or switch smoothly from connected to disconnected modes, facilitating deployment in any location regardless of network availability.

Additionally, the hardware configuration in the Azure MDC allows users to store data and connect to networks with up to three classification levels in a single module. This significantly reduces the amount of hardware and the costs required to set up multiple sets of infrastructure to support administrative, operational, and intelligence workloads.

Microsoft Modular Datacenter in airplane hanger.

Azure Modular Datacenter specifications

The Azure Modular Datacenter has the flexibility and performance to support a wide variety of government missions. It provides customers with several thousand cores of compute power and many petabytes (PB) of triple-redundant storage across multiple hardware racks. The racks can be configured to separate enclaves for different levels of data and workloads, and each enclave can run in disconnected mode, connect to the Azure cloud, or connect to customer local area networks.

The hardware is housed inside a rugged and portable 40-foot container that customers can deploy safely and easily wherever they need it most. Combining Azure software with a field-ready container makes the Azure MDC an enterprise-class datacenter solution unlike any other on the market for defense and national security missions.

Mission resiliency

The Azure MDC is a rugged, standalone datacenter that allows customers to run complex software workloads in offline or partially disconnected scenarios and to control and manage data for sovereignty purposes. Microsoft understands the criticality of system resilience in mission-critical computing.

To meet customer needs for high availability, Microsoft offers the network high availability (HA) module and the high availability module as add-on features to improve the resiliency of the Azure MDC.

Network high availability module

To help customers achieve and maintain their desired level of connectivity, the network high availability module provides network resiliency through a choice of satellite communication partners operating in several different orbits.

Microsoft’s network high availability module provides SATCOM for resiliency through partnered satellite operators.

The network high availability module, an add-on feature to the Azure MDC, is an environmentally controlled and monitored outdoor enclosure supporting network and satellite communication (SATCOM) equipment. This allows the Azure MDC to ensure connectivity to data and compute assets in the Azure Hyperscale cloud, even in cases when there is not a terrestrial network available. Microsoft works with customers to determine the optimal integrated antenna solution from the ecosystem of satellite operators, providing comprehensive satellite connectivity solutions.

In fully-connected scenarios, a loss of communication to assets in the field can jeopardize critical operations. The network high availability module can provide network resiliency via SATCOM links through our continuously growing ecosystem of SATCOM partners like SpaceX and SES, for continuity of operations during fiber failover.

The network high availability module allows the Azure MDC to run fully disconnected in areas where terrestrial connectivity is not accessible or desired. This module can utilize SATCOM networks to serve as primary connectivity to resources in the Azure Hyperscale cloud such as utilizing cloud backup or refreshing machine learning models.

High availability (HA) module

The high availability module provides an on-demand way to add additional power stability resources in a form factor that is as transportable and deployable as the Azure MDC. The high availability module provides an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) that keeps the Azure MDC running in cases of power fluctuations or short outages and allows for a smooth transition to a generator or controlled shutdown of the unit in cases of longer outages.

The module is self-contained with cooling and internal power distribution and can include satellite connectivity equipment equivalent to the network high availability module, turning it into a power and communication resiliency module. The high availability module is designed to be deployed in tandem with the Azure MDC when intended for long term placement and can move with the Azure MDC in the event of a required relocation.

Contact your local Microsoft representative for more information on high availability for the Azure MDC.

Original article: Azure Modular Datacenter – Mission resiliency for the field
Author: Bill Karagounis