Inside Google’s Data Center   Leave a comment

Within IT, it ultimately comes down to the data center. Regardless of the cool Web 2.0 service, on-line banking site, or MMORPG, ultimately, it comes down to a server (computer) in a rack, receiving power and cooling from the specialized building in which it sits. Professionally, I am a data center manager (strictly speaking, managing the operational relationship between my company and our data center providers), so I go into such places, and see the servers. Regardless of what’s hosted on it, they all look the same.

Among data center professionals, no site is seen as the big leagues more than Google’s data centers. They really are innovators in how they manage their systems to achieve greater efficiency and reliability. They do so by both implementing best practice to the extreme, as well as throwing out the rulebook in other cases. They are, however, notoriously secretive.

Today, however, one of my favorite tech writers, Steven Levy, wrote a piece about how he became one of the few journalists to get to view inside. Some interesting excerpts are below, but the whole article is more than worth your time to read.


If you’re looking for the beating heart of the digital age — a physical location where the scope, grandeur, and geekiness of the kingdom of bits become manifest—you could do a lot worse than Lenoir, North Carolina. This rural city of 18,000 was once rife with furniture factories. Now it’s the home of a Google data center.

Here I am, in a huge white building in Lenoir, standing near a reinforced door with a party of Googlers, ready to become that rarest of species: an outsider who has been inside one of the company’s data centers and seen the legendary server floor, referred to simply as “the floor.” My visit is the latest evidence that Google is relaxing its black-box policy. My hosts include Joe Kava, who’s in charge of building and maintaining Google’s data centers, and his colleague Vitaly Gudanets, who populates the facilities with computers and makes sure they run smoothly.

That requires massive amounts of energy; data centers consume up to 1.5 percent of all the electricity in the world.

All of these innovations helped Google achieve unprecedented energy savings. The standard measurement of data center efficiency is called power usage effectiveness, or PUE. A perfect number is 1.0, meaning all the power drawn by the facility is put to use. Experts considered 2.0—indicating half the power is wasted—to be a reasonable number for a data center. Google was getting an unprecedented 1.2.

Make no mistake, though: The green that motivates Google involves presidential portraiture. “Of course we love to save energy,” Hölzle says. “But take something like Gmail. We would lose a fair amount of money on Gmail if we did our data centers and servers the conventional way. Because of our efficiency, we can make the cost small enough that we can give it away for free
Google Throws Open Doors to Its Top-Secret Data Center
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