According to an article by Rich Miller over at Data Center Knowledge Google has opened a datacenter in Belgium that runs without chillers.
We talk to datacenter managers in HPC who are doing this part of the time (basically when weather permits or in parts of the world that are habitually cool) in our Green HPC podcast series. This strategy is called outside air economization (for a recent example see this article about Pete Beckman’s work at ANL). But Google has taken this to its logical conclusion
Rather than using chillers part-time, the company has eliminated them entirely in its data center near Saint-Ghislain, Belgium, which began operating in late 2008 and also features an on-site water purification facility that allows it to use water from a nearby industrial canal rather than a municipal water utility.
The climate in Belgium will support free cooling almost year-round, according to Google engineers, with temperatures rising above the acceptable range for free cooling about seven days per year on average. The average temperature in Brussels during summer reaches 66 to 71 degrees, while Google maintains its data centers at temperatures above 80 degrees.
What happens if it gets hot in Belgium? In that case the advantages of being the largest computing provider on the planet become evident
On those days, Google says it will turn off equipment as needed in Belgium and shift computing load to other data centers. This approach is made possible by the scope of the company’s global network of data centers, which provide the ability to shift an entire data center’s workload to other facilities.
This is a remarkable feat of software engineering.
“You have to have integration with everything right from the chillers down all the way to the CPU,” said Gill, Google’s Senior Manager of Engineering and Architecture. “Sometimes, there’s a temperature excursion, and you might want to do a quick load-shedding to prevent a temperature excursion because, hey, you have a data center with no chillers. You want to move some load off. You want to cut some CPUs and some of the processes in RAM.”
We could actually do this with supercomputing services on a national scale. If the United States were to decide and then behave as if HPC were a strategic resource that needed to be managed with a single coherent strategy, it is large and diverse enough to build datacenters around the country in areas of beneficial climate near cheap and/or environmentally friendly power sources. Of course this would involve datacenter owners and mangers giving up on the notion of being collocated with their machines. This is a tradition that is rapidly crossing out of the realm of quaint expression of an owner’s prerogative to give VIP tours and into the realm of misuse of financial, energy, and natural resources.