Google on 'The Data Center as a Computer'

A photo of the Google data center in Goose Creek South Carolina.

A photo of the Google data center in Goose Creek South Carolina.

We’ve written often about Google’s data center operations, which have include innovations such as data center containers and custom servers featuring on-board UPS batteries. Google’s approach to design and innovation are shaped by a vision of the data center that extends beyond traditional thinking. Two of the company’s data center thought leaders, Luiz Andre Barroso and Urs Holzle, have published The Datacenter as a Computer: An Introduction to the Design of Warehouse-Scale Machines (PDF), a paper that summarizes the company’s big-picture approach to data center infrastructure.

“As computation continues to move into the cloud, the computing platform of interest no longer resembles a pizza box or a refrigerator, but a warehouse full of computers,” write Barroso and Holzle. “These new large datacenters are quite different from traditional hosting facilities of earlier times and cannot be viewed simply
as a collection of co-located servers.

“Our central point is that the datacenters powering many of today’s successful Internet services are no longer simply a miscellaneous collection of machines co-located in a facility and wired up together,” they add. “The software running on these systems, such as Gmail or Web search services, execute at a scale far beyond a single machine or a single rack: they run on no smaller a unit than clusters of hundreds to thousands of individual servers. Therefore, the machine, the computer, is this large cluster or aggregation of servers itself and needs to be considered as a single computing unit.”

The paper is drawn from a lecture series on computer architecture, and is essential reading for understanding Google’s holistic approach to their design and deployment of these “warehouse-scale computers.”

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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. The link wasn't working for me (cookie problem) but this one works:

  2. Thanks, Tim! I've updated the link.