Google is very coy about what exactly makes up its infrastructure. For example, ask how many servers the company has or whose gear its running, and you’ll get sly smiles.
Google doesn’t want us to know how many commodity servers it has in its dozens of data centers all over the world, but now that green is officially the new “good,” the company has created a Web site that details in general, and even with some basic formulas, how the company’s servers and data centers are more power-efficient than those fueled by others.
The search giant on the site details how it reduced the amount of energy needed for the data centers to the point where, Google claims, “in the time it takes to do a Google search, your own personal computer will use more energy than we will use to answer your query.”
It’s not clear what the formula is to prove that, but Google provides a convincing five-step plan to data center efficiency here. In short, Google claims its servers are more efficient because they use better voltage regulators, avoid graphics chips and wisely use fans for cooling machinery.
Speaking of cooling, Google also uses evaporated water to cool its gear. Google recycles this water to avoid using extra drinking water. By 2010, Google said recycled water will provide 80 percent of the company’s total water consumption.
Google uses the PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) metric, and it’s here that some industry watchers are scrutinizing Google for any trickery. PUE dictates the ratio of the total power consumed by a data center to the power consumed by the IT equipment in the facility.
A PUE of 2.0 means that for every watt of IT power, an additional watt is consumed to cool and distribute power to the IT equipment. Clearly, the ideal PUE is 1.0, but that seems unattainable. Google claims six of its data centers average out to a PUE of 1.2, which is phenomenal.
Googles on a Great Disclosure Track
I’m hardly a power consumption expert to know whether Google is trying to pull a fast one here. When I first read the marketing phrase “green IT” give years ago, I thought it was a character from “SpongeBob SquarePants.” If Google is playing footsy with the metrics, that’s a shame and the company needs to stop thinking it can dupe everyone.
Regardless, I believe this unprecedented window into Google operations is great.
Finally, after a decade of gorging on the information provided by our searches, Google has loosened its belt with regard to sharing information that serves as the bedrock of its core businesses.
The latest share session involves the “greening” of Google’s data centers, but this isn’t the first time the company has gotten chatty about its technology.
In May, Udi Manber, vice president of engineering at Google, initiated a series of blog posts detailing Google’s search quality. I and other bloggers have pored over these posts eagerly for more insight into Google’s inner machinations. Fascinating stuff.
These illuminations are paired with interesting, albeit tense, times at Google. A decade into its luminous existence, Google is facing more and more scrutiny because of the glut of search data it has acquired.
Pundits are fed up with what they feel is a generally subtle intrusion on users’ privacy, and legislators are beginning to listen on Capitol Hill. This is particularly obvious in the scrutiny Google is facing over its proposed search ad deal with Yahoo.
But those matters have no bearing on Google’s data center details, which are wholly welcomed by this reader and others interested in knowing what helps Google tick.