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Google admits data center podification

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Google has admitted that its data centers are pieced together using intermodal shipping containers pre-packed with servers and cooling equipment.

As reported by our friends at Data Center Knowledge, the search giant dropped its long-standing data-center wall of secrecy this morning during a company event in Mountain View. Confirming an October report from The Register, Google said it has used containers in its live data centers since 2005.

Famously, Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive publicly pitched the container idea in the fall of 2003, and that December, Google filed for a patent describing a modular data center of its own. According to Kahle and a well-known 2005 expose from Robert X. Cringely, Google co-founder Larry Page was in the audience for one Internet Archive pitch a little more than a month before the patent filing.

The patent was granted in October 2007. But Google hadn't confirmed its real world containerization until today. The company says these truck-sized building blocks were used to build its first custom-built data center in 2005.

Spanning 75,000 square feet, Google's inaugural data center - known as Data Center A - is filled with 45 shipping containers, each with space for up to 1,160 servers. The server racks are suspended from the top of the container, and chilled water moves through a raised floor below, before passing through the racks themselves.

"Water was a big concern,” Urs Holzle, Google’s head of data center operations, told Data Center Knowledge. "You never know how well these couplings (on the water lines) work in real life. It turns out they work pretty well. At the time, there was nothing to go on."

Data Center A has a power capacity of 10 megawatts and a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.25. Google did not say where this particular facility is located, but Data Center Knowledge guesses it's one of three facilities Google has built in The Dalles, Oregon.

Nowadays, data center podification is all the rage. Sun also followed Brewster Kahle's lead, commercializing the containerized data center as the Sun MD, formerly Project Blackbox. Just last week, at its campus in Santa Clara, California, the company unveiled a new container that will house the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, a 150 billion-page web history dating back to 1996. Meanwhile, IBM and Rackspace have built their own modular data centers, and Microsoft is poised to launch its own podified facility in Chicago.

According to one former employee, Google's containerized data center play is known within the company as Project Will Power. The company has also patented containerized data centers that float on water. But Google is still mum on whether it has actually launched its own data center navy. ®

Bootnote

This morning, Google also lifted the veil from its much-discussed custom server design. As it turns out, the Googleserver includes a power supply that packs its own battery, which means it can operate even when the server loses power from the outside. Data Center Knowledge is hosting a video of the machine here.

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