Every second of the day, people all over the globe troll the Net with Google’s search engine, log into their Gmail accounts or use a host of other Google products. This means that the servers in the Google data centers are buzzing with activity 24/7 to support loads of services simultaneously. While they constantly look to develop their software, with programming luminaries like Jeff Dean producing innovative ways to handle immense data loads, the search engine leader has surged ahead of the competition on the hardware front too with innovative technology that uses fewer servers and serves more users while consuming less energy.
From simple to sophisticated strategies, Google shows the way for other industries to adapt best practices in running not just data centers but entire businesses. The company serves as an exemplary business model for running super-efficient systems and processes across its operations.
Efficiency is Key
High performance with less energy is Google’s strategy to reduce the environmental impact of the company, as well as the users of its products and services. Its data centers consume only half of the energy used by conventional data centers. This is achieved through smart engineering to provide as robust a platform to work from as possible.
Among other sensible practices, Google has custom servers, runs its operations at 80 degrees F, and takes advantage of outdoor air for cooling. With energy-efficient processes, Google has minimised its energy usage down to 12% for non-computing tasks, such as power conversion and cooling. The greater share of energy consumption is directed to power the equipment that services Google products and searches.
Renewable Energy Sources
Currently, over one third of Google’s operations are powered by clean, renewable energy sources. The company has contracted with renewable energy producers over the long term to purchase power from wind farms close to some of its data centers.
Google has also committed to projects that tap into renewable energy, investing over $1 billion in rooftop solar energy and extensive wind power sources. These initiatives have a potential capacity exceeding 2 GW, which can supply far more energy reserves than the enterprise requires. They can generate a total power equivalent to the energy consumption of over half a million homes.
Aside from the macro scale of operations, Google also takes micro matters seriously in its overall efforts to achieve energy efficiency. Each server is supplied with its own on-board, lead-acid battery, providing an uninterrupted power supply (UPS). The independent battery assigned to each server contributes to a backup power supply system that’s evenly distributed across a data center.
With an optimised efficiency rate of 99.9%, this distributed model is superior to the centralised UPS setups of standard data centers. During unexpected power outages, the backup system ensures the least disruption in web services, continuing the power flow that’s critical to web-based businesses.
Google engineers also keep current with the latest technological developments, such as the coaxial cable responsible for the digital signal carrier interface to the data centers.
Industrial Ventilation and Temperature
A well-managed industrial ventilation is vital to the efficient operations of data centers. Google ensures optimal conditions of air flow circulation by applying computational fluid dynamics and thermal modelling methods. With a professionally built containment plan, incidences of mixing hot air with cold air and hot spots are reduced. Vacant slots in a rack are provided with metal sheets or blanking plates.
Google has dispelled the misguided 70 degree F requirement in data centers. It successfully maintains its facilities at 80 degrees F, the temperature allowed for cold aisles by the majority of equipment manufacturers. Using water and air-side economisers enables higher cold aisle temperatures, which provides free cooling days and saves energy.
Google’s research and development teams employ practical solutions to maintain the most efficient, energy-saving systems in all its facilities and locations.
Christopher Parkinson’s interest in electronics stem from an early age, I remember watching my father using a multimeter to test my Scaletrix which had stopped working. At that time this was the most fantastic thing I had ever seen bear in mind I was 6 and so very easily impressed. I went on to study microprocessor design theory before working for a company repairing mobile phones.