You should get the basic concept: Networked storage with hot-swappable drives. Take that idea, extend it to power and cooling, and multiply it by thousands of drives, and you get what Microsoft is deploying for its cloud services - be it Exchange Server or Bing or Office 2010. It's a shipping container that's a fully self-contained server system. And true to its modular design, it can also be one piece of a larger network of servers, that can be set up anywhere, in a hurry.
The portability isn't the only thing that's relatively new: These systems used to require a fire hose to cool them down, but now they have a garden hose, and the water is only needed when temperature rises above normal operating temperatures.
The data centre in Chicago, shown in pictures and video here, went live mid-2009 and when completed will cover 65,000 square metres, demands 30MW of energy, one day reaching 60MW. Microsoft is exploring alternatives to power from the grid: A similar data centre in Quincy, Washington uses hydro-electric power, 27MW worth. Here's how the Chicago centre was "built":
Quite a few controlled facilities, even if Microsoft won't say exactly how many. What's sure is that the number is getting bigger. Judging by this viddy, the global deployment process can seem a little like Dr. Evil trying to take over the world, or at least you trying to win a game of Risk.
Memory [Forever] is our week-long consideration of what it really means when our memories, encoded in bits, flow in a million directions and might truly live forever.