Google: Rewriting the book on data centers

Google: Rewriting the book on data centers

Summary: Om Malik had an interesting post about Google's super-sized datacenters. He posited that Google’s massive infrastructure, customized for its processes, represents a the big barrier to entry for its rivals, and it will continue to give the company an edge as long as it keeps spending the billions on its custom infrastructure.


Om Malik had an interesting post about Google's super-sized datacenters. He posited that Google’s massive infrastructure, customized for its processes, represents a the big barrier to entry for its rivals, and it will continue to give the company an edge as long as it keeps spending the billions on its custom infrastructure.

Indeed, Google is spending billions on equipment and buying up thousands of acres around the globe to better control its own infrastructure destiny and to deliver search results very fast and accurately. The company is spending over several billion dollars to build data centers collectively housing hundreds of thousands of servers running massively parallel computations in power-friendly locations in Iowa, Oklahoma, Oregon and North and South Carolina, and that's just in the U.S.

dalles.jpg Google data center under construction in The Dalles, Ore.


Lloyd Taylor, the former director of global operations at Google and now vice president of technology operation at LinkedIn, attributes part Google's success to its data center design and science. "Everything goes back to physics," the former member of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab told me.


Google threw out the book on data centers and went back to basic heat transfer and electrical theory, he explained, eliminating everything not strictly necessary and coming up with a minimalist design.


It's similar to how the integrated circuit industry applies a step and repeat concept for building circuit boards, he said. "Buy 1,000 acres in Oklahoma and build a data center and when you need more space, step and repeat, build another one next to it. As the business needs more space, a new data center is up and running in less than six months."

The physics comes in understanding how to gain more efficiency in power and cooling, for example. "Most data centers have multiple transfers between the server, the air around the server, the cooling towers and so forth. Any time you do a transfer through any two medium heat transfer theory will tell you that you are losing efficiency. So, you eliminate the number of transfers and have a very simple connection from the server itself to the cooling towers," Taylor said.

In addition, redundancy is aided by using the software and hardware layers to pay attention to things that aren't working, and proactively redirecting loads. "If a meteor hits in Oregon, you may have to hit reload to get a search result, but that's about it," Taylor said.

Google has patented many of its hardware and software infrastructure innovations, and as Ethan Stock said in blog post, "Google is the server-side doppelganger to Apple, and their platforms like GFS, BigTable, MapReduce, and Sawzall are core to their competitive advantage." The major difference is that Google's servers are behind the curtain and Apple's devices are center stage.

The hosting, backup generator and cooling tower businesses in general are booming. Dupont Fabros Technology, for example, is building a data center (below) in Northern Virginia that takes up 17.15 acres, with a 348,464 square foot facility and 171,200 square feet of raised floor, with output of 36.4 megawatts.


Over time, whatever Google has done to gain more efficiency and cost savings in its data center design will be in textbooks and less of a competitive advantage. The Red Shift, Sun CTO Greg Papadopoulos' idea that we'll end up with a handful of super-scaled data centers powering everything digital on the planet, is a long way off, and there will always be room for more niche operations.

Among the attendees at session at Gartner's Data Center Conference in Las Vegas last month, only five percent said they would outsource their data center operations to a third-party provider.

Like ice gradually melting into the oceans in the Arctic regions, enterprises want to slowly migrate to the cloud, or utility, computing model, with services delivered by massive-scale data centers. But, the tech industry will have its own global warming, pushing companies to move faster to the cloud to stay competitive.

See also: Data Center Knowledge

Topics: Google, Data Centers, Hardware, Storage

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  • How green is it?

    Interesting info about Google's data farm. But the facts are that PC servers & blades run much hotter & less efficiently than larger systems - so how green is Google's operation? How eco-friendly is it to run mass numbers of energy inefficient servers?
    • Electricity is a huge expense for Google, so, they are working 24x7 to make

      them as green as humanly possible. The electricity is HUGE factor in the cost. I would not be surprised to see them use Sun multi-core chips in the future though.
    • Green

      Power is charged by max usage or peak for this type of system per time on. Google has over built the server system to lower the spikes in power usage, lowering the average kw used. All power usage is average low to keep the power bill lower, and lessen electricity demand.
  • RE: Google: Rewriting the book on data centers

    Google`s data centers at various places and the massive structures of it`s operation creates a splendid inquisitive air on the minds of Google users(almost every body). Their type of work and "Do good" motto with the friendly atmosphere towards every of it`s employee with friendly air towars visitors have got very sober effects on unlookers. The giant servers coordinated and synchronized to do the job of serching is straight from "Star Trek"
  • Given Googles advantage of scale, and the fact that they can build the data

    centers faster and cheaper than anybody else, they will have a huge advantage for sometime to come. You can bet that Google will be leveraging all of the back-end processing power and storage to make their services more compelling that competitors.

    And, for those of us that can remember 5 MB limits on webmail, what Google has done to force competition is truly astounding.
  • Power issues are different at Google-scale

    Google's power issue is maintaining a steady level of
    demand - avoiding spikes - not minimizing power
    usage. That helps the power producers too.
    See more at <a
    target="_blank"> Google???s warehouse-size power
    problem</a> which reviews a Google paper on power.
    R Harris
  • Smart location

    Google chose wisely to build its Oregon data center nearby one of the Columbia River's largest hydro-electric dams, The Dalles Dam.
  • Recycle

    Simple system to recycle energy so who is buying the recycled energy from goggles center that should be about 100 Mw right? Or is goggles system just efficient without actually recycling that 100 Mw"? Just throwing that heat away? That looks like heat rejection on the top of the building. So if their throwing it away their not recycling.Thats a lot of money up in the air.