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The Top 10 Data Center Images of 2012

The data center is ready for its close up. In 2012 we saw a welcome focus on the hidden beauty of data center technology, highlighted by several developments in a single week. On Oct. 10, Prentice Hall published The Art of the Data Center, a collection of photos and interviews of some of the world's most unique IT facilities, curated by Cisco IT architect Douglas Alger. A week later, Google gave the world a look inside its data centers, publishing gorgeous photos taken by a leading architecture photographer.

Data Center Knowledge has been a pioneer in taking readers inside these amazing facilities with photo tours, as we've spent the last seven years bugging data center operators to share images with our readers. We continue the tradition with our Top 10 Data Center Images of 2012.


Here’s a rare look inside the hot aisle of a Google data center. The exhaust fans on the rear of the servers direct sever exhaust heat into the enclosed area. Chilled-water cooling coils, seen at the top of the enclosure, cool the air as it ascends. The silver piping visible on the left-hand side of the photo, which carry water to and from cooling towers. (Photo: Connie Zhou for Google)

Search giant Google provided the most comprehensive look yet inside its Internet infrastructure, releasing a portfolio of images of its data centers that reveal the technology powering its online information empire. The gallery titled Where the Internet Lives features images from Connie Zhou, who specializes in architecture photography, and showcases the beauty and complexity of the facilities that power the Internet. Google also used the StreetView component of its GoogleMaps app to provide a virtual tour of its data center in Lenoir, North Carolina.

RagingWire Data Centers

One of the distinctive features of the RagingWire data center is the attention to detail on cabling management, which is on display in this view of one of the tenant equipment areas. (Photo: RagingWire)

Each year we profile new data centers in key data center markets. This year that included the new RagingWire facility in Ashburn, Virginia. The 140,000 square feet facility is the first data center on the East Coast for the Sacramento, Calif.-based company. But there's more to come - in October RagingWire announced plans to build a 750,000 square foot data center campus in Ashburn's "Data Center Alley."

The NCAR Supercomputer

The cabinets of the Yellowstone supercomputer, housed in the new NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne. (Photo by Carlye Calvin of UCAR)

The NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming is home to a powerful supercomputer on an ambitious agenda of experiments that will improve predictions of earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes. The NCAR center is home to Yellowstone, a new 1.5-petaflop IBM supercomputer – enough power to place among the world’s top 20 supercomputers. The facility will include 24,000 square feet of raised floor data center space, with a 10-foot raised floor and 9-foot ceiling plenum to manage airflow required to cool the IT gear.


The data halls in the Facebook Rutherford County facility are packed with “triplet” racks, which house server designs that contain two servers on each sled. (Photo: Rich Miller)

Almost no data center operator has been more open about its technology than Facebook. The social network has published its hardware and data center designs through the Open Compute Project, and opened its data centers to journalists - including DCK, which got an inside look at the company's North Carolina campus in November. Facebook has built two enormous data centers in Rutherford County, N.C. to power its growing Internet infrastructure. The two-story structures each span more than 300,000 square feet.

The National Petascale Computing Facility

An exterior view of the National Petascale Computing Facility at the University of Illinois, home to the Blue Waters supercomputer (Image: NCSA/University of Illinois)

In October, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) launched its Blue Waters supercomputer. Primarily funded from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Blue Waters is intended to aid open scientific research in solving big impact problems with big calculation and big data needs. To house the supercomputer, the University of Illinois and NCSA built The National Petascale Computing Facility, which includes 30,000 square feet of raised floor data center space. A six-foot raised floor separates the server room on the upper floor from the power room on the lower level, and level contains trays for the massive power cables, pipes for the chilled water supply and return, and a two foot deep cable tray. See Going Petascale: The Supercomputing Frontier for more on the NPCF.

CyrusOne Phoenix

A bird’s eye view of the data center area, seen from an observation gallery, with the raised floor visible through the maze of wires. (Photo by Colleen Miller)

In Phoenix, a new data center is rising on land that just six months ago was covered with alfalfa fields. Colocation provider CyrusOne broke ground in June on its 47-acre site at the Continuum business park, which has the capacity for seven data center buildings housing up to 1 million square feet of space. The Data Center Knowledge team got a tour of the site in November as CyrusOne prepared the facility for a mid-December opening. Check out our photo feature, Birth of a Data Center for an early look at the facility.

DuPont Fabros Technology's NJ1 Data Center

An aerial view of the massive solar power array on the roof of the DuPont Fabros NJ1 data center in Piscataway, New Jersey (Photo: DuPont Fabros Technology.)

Solar arrays will likely never be able to fully support the power requirements of a major data center. The enormous photovoltaic array atop the DuPont Fabros Technology NJ1 data center in Piscataway, N.J. is a 2.17 megawatt system, one of the largest seen in the industry providing a sign that the data center sector moving beyond symbolic solar arrays and into on-site generation that provides meaningful scale – even if it doesn’t support the entire facility. This image also demonstrates how aerial photos can capture the scale of the largest data centers in dramatic fashion.

Stampede Supercomputer

The Stampede supercomputer is housed in nearly 200 cabinets in a new data center at the Texas Advanced Computing center in Austin. (Photo: TACC)

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has recently launched its Stampede system, a new supercomputer that recorded a speed of 2.6 petaflops to place seventh in the most recent Top 500 ranking, but is expected to have an upper range closer to 10 petaflops upon full deployment. The Stampede system marks the first Top 10 appearance for a supercomputer using Xeon Phi, a coprocessor using Intel’s Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture for highly parallel workloads.

Microsoft's Dublin Data Center

Racks of servers housed inside the Microsoft data center in Dublin, Ireland which is undergoing a major expansion. (Photo: Microsoft).

Blinking lights. That's what many "server farms" are known for, and the largest cloud facilities are packed with armadas of servers, creating extended vistas of blinking green and blue within the aisles of racks.  These servers live inside a hot aisle containment system in the huge Microsoft data center in Dublin, Ireland, which was expended early this year to add 13.2 megawatts of power capacity to support the company's growing online services throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Titan (Oak Ridge Laboratory)

The Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a 20-petaflop Cray XK7 system that is faster than the current Top 500 champion. (Photo: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

In August, DCK provided a look inside the supercomputing center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee,  which features an unusual concentration of computing horsepower, focusing 18 megawatts of electric capacity on a 20,000 square foot raised-floor area. At the time, the staff was busy working with Cray and NVIDIA to upgrade the facility's most powerful machine, named Jaguar. The system emerged in late October as Titan, a 200-cabinet system packing 20 petaflops of computing power. Titan has been accelerated by a hybrid computing architecture teaming traditional central processing units (CPUs) from AMD with the high-speed graphics processing units (GPUs) from NVIDIA to create a faster and more efficient machine. In mid-November, Titan was recognized as the new world champion of supercomputing, placing first in the annual Top 500 list. For more cool pictures of supercomputers, see The Top 10 Supercomputers, Illustrated.