Google unveils its super secret server design, DC and batteries built in

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Thanks to Twitter user Yeraze (of fame) for passing this c|net article on to insideHPC World HQ. On Wednesday Google took the wraps off its custom servers for their first public viewing. Of course, we know that Google builds their own. What else did we find out?

Google’s big surprise: each server has its own 12-volt battery to supply power if there’s a problem with the main source of electricity. The company also revealed for the first time that since 2005, its data centers have been composed of standard shipping containers–each with 1,160 servers and a power consumption that can reach 250 kilowatts.

Too bad they build their own shipping containers, too. They could have singlehandedly propped up that ailing market. Why batteries? I wondered the same thing. Replaces the big UPS’s some of us have hanging off the back of our operations

Typical data centers rely on large, centralized machines called uninterruptible power supplies (UPS)–essentially giant batteries that kick in when the main supply fails and before generators have time to kick in. Building the power supply into the server is cheaper and means costs are matched directly to the number of servers, Jai said.

“This is much cheaper than huge centralized UPS,” he said. “Therefore no wasted capacity.”

Efficiency is another financial factor. Large UPSs can reach 92 to 95 percent efficiency, meaning that a large amount of power is squandered. The server-mounted batteries do better, Jai said: “We were able to measure our actual usage to greater than 99.9 percent efficiency.”

Also, they supply 12 volt right to the servers, an option we’ve been talking about in our datacenter only just recently.

Another illustration of Google’s obsession with efficiency comes through power supply design. Power supplies convert conventional AC (alternating current–what you get from a wall socket) electricity into the DC (direct current–what you get from a battery) electricity, and typical power supplies provide computers with both 5-volt and 12-volt DC power. Google’s designs supply only 12-volt power, with the necessary conversions taking place on the motherboard.

I think this is also a great time, with the core tenets of capitalism under direct assault by our own government, to note that Google achieved results and efficiences that are being lauded by the EPA and most of the IT community, built an enormous business that employees thousands, and created a driver of innovation in the American economy, all while trying to make a (gasp) profit

Overall, Google’s choices have been driven by a broad analysis on cost that encompasses software, hardware, and facilities.

“Early on, there was an emphasis on the dollar per (search) query,” Hoelzle said. “We were forced to focus. Revenue per query is very low.”

Hmmm. Maybe we should let these guys run the banks. And GM. But not Chrysler.


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