Microsoft desires to see more robots in data centers.
Executive Sean James said that Microsoft is “building a team dedicated to the automation of datacenter operations.”

To spearhead the robotic revolution in data center automation, Microsoft is appointing a human leader.

According to the Register, Microsoft advertised a position for a team manager of hardware robotics in its automation division during the second week of October. The role requires “3+ years professional hands-on experience working on automation and robotics for hardware equipment” in addition to conventional program management skills in engineering or product.

Sean James, senior director of datacenter research at Microsoft, stated on LinkedIn that he was “building a team dedicated to the automation of datacenter operations” and that “we want our datacenters to be safe and efficient.”

Director of Cloud and Data Center Research at Omdia, Vlad Galabov, told the Register that he had witnessed “a proof-of-concept of robots for data hall inspection at a Telehouse datacenter in London years ago” and hinted that Microsoft was probably investigating a similar technology. He added that the persistent lack of skilled workers may be a factor in data center owners’ interest in robotics and could raise expenses.

A data center can employ robots for a variety of tasks; as the Register has separately reported, Jtec Industries demonstrated a “ORV2/ORV3-Compatible Server Rack Cart” at the 2023 Open Compute Summit in San Jose, California. The cart, which can be operated by an autonomous guided vehicle or by members of the data center team, is made to move whole loaded server racks for hyperscalers.

Robots may also be used to patrol maze-like data centers, recording “round-the-clock data” and keeping an eye out for unusual variations in factors like the surrounding environment. The national telecoms company of Japan, NTT, has published footage of experimental robots that can carry out tasks like hot swapping, which calls for the capacity to accurately remove and replace hardware components based on their visual recognition. Ultimately, more operators may be able to operate remotely thanks to robots.

Staffing shortages can lead to expensive disruptions, as the Register pointed out. Microsoft has admitted that a prolonged outage in its Australia East cloud area in August 2023 was caused, in part, by a lack of workers to restart chillers after a power loss.

Microsoft stated in a post-incident report that “the staffing of the team at night was insufficient to restart the chillers in a timely manner due to the size of the datacenter campus.”

Microsoft was asked to comment regarding the listing and the kinds of robots it plans to release, but Microsoft never responded.