Report: Google Uses About 900,000 Servers

A Google admin works on a server inside a container in one of Google's early data centers. (Source: Google).

Have Google watchers been overestimating the number of servers in the company’s data center network? Recent guesstimates have placed Google’s server count at more than 1 million. But new data on Google’s energy use suggests that the company is probably running about 900,000 servers.

Google never says how many servers are running in its data centers. The new estimate is based on information the company shared with Stanford professor Jonathan Koomey, who has just released an updated report on data center energy usage.

Google’s David Jacobowitz, a program manager on the Green Energy team, told Koomey that the electricity used by the company’s data centers was less than 1% of 198.8 billion kWh – the estimated total global data center energy usage for 2010. That means that Google may be running its entire global data center network in an energy footprint of roughly 220 megawatts of power.

“Google’s data center electricity use is about 0.01% of total worldwide electricity use and less than 1 percent of global data center electricity use in 2010,” Koomey writes, while cautioning that his numbers represent educated guesses extrapolated from the company’s information. “This result is in part a function of the higher infrastructure efficiency of Google’s facilities compared to in-house data centers, which is consistent with efficiencies of other cloud computing installations, but it also reflects lower electricity use per server for Google’s highly optimized servers.”

Low-Power Servers, High Efficiency Data Centers

Google’s data centers are designed to take advantage of industry best practices in design and operations. The company has been a pioneer in running warmer facilities and designing chiller-less data centers that use less energy. At the server level, Google’s custom servers feature a power supply that integrates a battery, allowing it to function as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). The design shifts the UPS and battery backup functions from the data center into the server cabinet.

Google is preparing to manage much larger fleets of servers in the future. The company has designed a new storage and computation system called Spanner, which will seek to automate management of Google services across multiple data centers. That includes automated allocation of resources across “entire fleets of machines” – ranging from 1 million to 10 million machines.

In addition to not disclosing server counts, Google also doesn’t release data on the electricity it uses or provisions for its data centers. Local reports have suggested that Google arranges power capacity of 50 megawatts and beyond for some of its largest data centers. If the company is actually running its infrastructure using just 220 megawatts of power, that would suggest that Google is provisioning power for significant future expansion at these sites.

Koomey’s report, “Growth in Data Center Power Use 2005 to 2010,” was prepared for the New York Times, which summarizes the findings this morning.


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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. That's a lot of power and servers! I don't see how they would be abl to run servers in a warmer enviroment though? Wouldn't if affect the server?

  2. Fez

    Time to get rid of the Crappy Xeons and go for ARMs they will save almost 2/3rd if only someone has the balls put ARM w/ server Ip in silicon

  3. Skaperen

    Actually, it's OK to run servers at a warmer temperature as long as your cooling environment is stable and does not fluctuate up and down a lot. You would get such fluctuations if you have a single refrigeration type cooling unit, since when it shuts off, it must stay off for usually a minimum of 15 minutes before starting, again. These fluctuations could push the temperature inside the server to higher peaks, so it would therefore need to run at a lower average temperature. With a stablized cooling system, you can run at a higher average more easily, and save money.

  4. Craig

    220 megawatts..... That could heat a small town if the heat could be utilized.

  5. ex-Googler

    900,000 ... really. Maybe in one corner of one data center there is only 900,000. Who ever is in charge of doing these surveys needs a new job...they are not even close. Think about it for a minute: Known Datacenters: Atlanta, North/South Carolinas, Chicago, California, Oregon, Taiwan, Ireland. The Oregon and Atlanta ones alone are 5 football fields in size. Do you still believe there are only 900,000 servers running all of the Google infrastructure. I guess it is just more proof, that people will believe anything they read.

  6. notwired9

    @wired9 - They plan on servers failing due to the higher temps. They keep swapping out the dead servers. Remember, they're using bottom of the barrel components to save on parts cost. As time goes by, they weed out the chips that can't tolerate the heat and have a farm full of chips that can. Kind of like evolution without the sex - just a fitness function.

  7. Enzo

    It seems like some bad engineering to require that many servers. You can get a 1u server with 512gb of RAM and 24-cores these days. 1000 of those would be 500TB of RAM and 24,000 cores. That should be plenty of power to pull up crappy results that Google does. Everything else they do besides Android and Gmail is a complete waste of time and resources.

  8. hans

    @ex-Googler: You obviously never worked for Google because 900,000 is actually pretty accurate.

  9. whatnonsense

    people don't read or remember things. Google has a special deal with Intel where intel certifies/warranties their cpu will perform at up to 95 celsius. They don't do bottom of the barrel infrastructure any more. They're not a startup anymore.

  10. I am glad that I do not have to pay this electric bill. I used to work in an old time date center with an IBM 370 and the whole room was run so cold to keep from burning up the equipment. Yes servers are smaller and the intel chips run a bit hotter. Almost a million servers is alot of power considering how powerful the computers are today and the memory they have for storing music, photograph's and text.

  11. monsterlawls

    wow! :D

  12. Wow. Huge number, but i bet this isn't any way close to the real number of servers burning up in the numerous data centers Google has.

  13. Thats crazy! I wonder how many Facebook uses.

  14. Google has some great videos describing their energy management implementations. Check out this video of their airflow techniques:

  15. Wow, Google will need more and more servers in the near future..

  16. Jim

    > the Crappy Xeons and go for ARMs they will save almost 2/3rd ….now if only someone has the balls put ARM w/ server Hmm - Apple making a new xServe powered by the A5 (or A6, A7, A[0-9])? (A[0-9]* multiple digits perhaps ??!)

  17. it should be believed servers that are more sophisticatd than google servers are still on the way.These servers will not be for the entire public,it would servers apps for exclusive citizens of the world.I MEAN THE RICHEST WORLD CITIZENS.IT ALSO AN AVENUE TO RETURN TO OLD TRADITION OF YOU DOING WHAT YOU KNOW HOW TO DO ONCE YOU ARE GLUED TO CYBER SPACE.

  18. Julian

    Why the secrecy? Secrecy translates into darkness. (Spelling correction)