The Equinix SV3 data center in Santa Clara is featured today in the San Francisco Chronicle, which uses a tour of the facility as a jumping-off point to explain Internet infrastructure. Staffers from VeriSign are also interviewed for the article. Here's an excerpt with an interesting visual:
The limiting factor in most data centers is keeping the equipment cool. All those computers, stuffed with microprocessors, churn out enormous amounts of heat - at SV3, the equivalent of 480 barbecues running continuously. Standing behind a bank of servers is like being in front of an open oven. If cooling systems crash, the room would heat up to the point of equipment failure within an hour. To keep the center between 66 and 74 degrees - which to a computer feels like sweater weather - SV3 uses five 500-ton chiller units, enormous machines that circulate cooled water through the building.
How many barbecues can be powered by your data center? I'm not sure if that will catch on as a green metric, but it's an interesting way to quantify data center heat loads. The article includes photos of a diesel generator, chiller plant and Equinix data center engineer Derek Schlecht, who served as tour guide for the Chronicle.