A Look At Google’s Newest Data Center

A photo of Google's data center in Goose Creek South Carolina, showing lighted "garage" area.

A photo of Google's data center in Goose Creek, South Carolina.

On Monday we got a look at Microsoft’s “hangar bay” for data center containers inside its new Northlake, Illinois facility. We’ve also been told that one of the Google company-built data centers included in its energy efficiency data “could be a container data center.” So what might one of Google’s container data centers look like?

The above photo of Google’s brand-new data center in Goose Creek, South Carolina may provide a clue. The picture, snapped by Charleston-area news blog The Digitel clearly shows a section of the data center that is lighted and open to the elements, looking quite a bit like a parking deck. You can see larger copy of the image at Flickr.

Could this be Google’s version of the two-story approach used by Microsoft in Chicago, with a first story packed with containers and an upper floor using conventional racks? Or might the “parking deck” serve another purpose?

The exterior views available during the Oct. 7 groundbreaking event at the Goose Creek data center don’t provide many answers, but raise some interesting questions. Attendees were not allowed inside the data center during the event, which was held in a tent in front of the facility. But a number of news organizations have published pictures.

The ceiling in the open area looks to be high enough to accommodate a container (a 40-foot container is typically 8.5 to 9.5 feet high), but perhaps not aboard a delivery vehicle. It’s clearly a smaller space than the Microsoft container area in Northlake.

The Google data center was announced in April 2007 and is located on a 520-acre site at the Mount Holly Commerce Park. It was among the four new data center projects announced by Google in the first half of 2007, each representing an investment of $600 million. The other data center projects are in Lenoir, North Carolina; Pryor, Oklahoma and Council Bluffs, Iowa.

I’ve learned to be cautious about drawing any conclusions from photos like this. But pictures of other Google data centers indicate that the Goose Creek design is new, and was first seen in the Lenoir facility (seen below), which also has an open area at one end.

The data center designs at Lenoir and Goose Creek are clearly a departure from facilities built in 2006 in The Dalles, Oregon, as seen in photos taken by The New York Times and John Nelson. It’s also substantially different from the design of a Google data center in Eemshaven in the Netherlands that was photographed in 2007 by Erwin Boogert:

For a full pictorial history of the inside of Google’s data centers, see James Hamilton’s blog (scroll down when you get there for the photos), where James has posted some photos supplied by Google’s Jeff Dean.

For more photos from the Goose Creek data center, you can check out The Digitel’s  Flickr set,  the Charleston City Paper and LowCountry Bloggers. Here’s some of our previous coverage of Google’s South Carolina projects:

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. l a

    It would be nice to atleast see some of the inside, as some of us are curious as to how they are going to use the bottom cooling pad to their advantage...

  2. Unclemantis

    That is just amazing. Simply amazing.

  3. DataCenter Guy

    Do they REALLY think its a good idea to have above ground fuel storage tanks that near to the coast? It would NOT be my first choice....

  4. Are you sure that's not a new Costco? ;)

  5. Chip H.

    The data center is elevated because it's in a coastal area of a region known for getting hurricanes. When a hurricane strikes the area, that area under their data center will be needed to accommodate the storm surge. One question I'd like answered is if they installed seismic bracing. The Charleston area has the Helena Banks fault zone just offshore. The 1886 earthquake is thought to have been a 7.0

  6. Does anyone know if they are using traditional raised flooring?

  7. Yan

    this fails to deliver. who cares about the *outside* of a data-centre??

  8. very impressive, although I am not surprised coming from Google

  9. Dave

    I have installed 2376 HP servers in 2 data centers over a 33 month period. Models include: DL360, DL380, DL385, DL580, DL585, and C7000 I have been told that my cabling is a work of art. I am asked why I install the patch cables so neatly. I give them 3 reasons. 1) It facilitates better air flow. I insist on right-size cables. This keeps the amount of cable in the cable management arm to a minimum which allows hot air from the back of the server to escape better. 2) Better operation of the cable management arm when extending the server out of the rack for service. One should be able to pull the server out 1000 times and the cabling remains neat and enacted. 3) It looks good. There is a sense of pride when your multi-million dollar data center looks like a multi-million dollar data center. Currently, I am working as an Analyst teaching others how to properly cable servers and teaching them about the vision of having the neatest data center on the planet. Dave

  10. Chris

    Well good for you dave. Hey everyone, lets all give a big hand to dave, cable hero.

  11. Adam

    Yes lets all give dave a hand for doing what ALL data techs do. Wow, he does neat work, don't we all. Anyway, these Google data ceters are pretty cool. I have worked in several of them. I am limited as to what I can say because of the disclosure statement I had to sign, but they are state of art. But who cares. Its just electrical work. I mean what's the big deal. Its not that exciting once you get close to it and figure it out.