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."