Feeds

Google data center born without chillers

Belgian free cooling

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The cooling system inside Google's Belgium data center has no chillers. It uses nothing but outside air - so-called "free-cooling" - to keep temperatures down. And if the Belgian air gets too hot, Google shifts the data center's compute loads to other facilities.

As we reported late last month, Google senior manager of engineering and architecture Vijay Gill alluded to this chiller-less setup during a cloud-happy tech conference in San Francisco. And our piece sparked a follow-up story from our friends at Data Center Knowledge.

According to the site, Google openly discussed its chiller-free facility this spring during a data-center summit inside the Mountain View Chocolate Factory. The Belgium climate can provide free cooling for all but about seven days of the year, the company says, and during those hot summer days, Google offloads the facility's tasks to other custom-built data centers, which now number about 36 worldwide.

The free-cooling idea is hardly unique - the likes of Microsoft and Yahoo! are also working to cut energy costs by using alternative cooling sources - but Google isn't even using chillers as a fall-back.

Google tends to operate its data centers at over 80 degrees Fahrenheit - well above the norm - and according to one former employee, Intel provides the Chocolate Factory with chips that are better able to withstand heat than garden variety Chipzilla processors. But it's unclear how Google's free cooling setup operates. The company did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

Speaking at Structure 09, the wonderfully-witty Vijay Gill seemed to indicate that when there's a temperature spike in the chiller-less data center, its top-secret infrastructure can respond without human intervention.

"You have to have integration with everything right from the chillers down all the way to the CPU," he said. "Sometimes, there's a temperature excursion, and you might want to do a quick load-shedding - a quick load-shedding to prevent a temperature excursion because, hey, you have a data center with no chillers. You want to move some load off. You want to cut some CPUs and some of the processes in RAM."

And he hinted that Google can (almost) instantly shift loads from one data center to another as if moving data between servers. Google likes to think of each data center as one big machine. The Datacenter as a Computer: An Introduction to the Design of Warehouse-Scale Machines is the title of the now-famous paper.

"How do you manage the system and optimize it on a global level? That is the interesting part," Gill continued. "What we’ve got here [with Google] is massive - like hundreds of thousands of variable linear programming problems that need to run in quasi-real-time. When the temperature starts to excurse in a data center, you don’t have the luxury to sitting around for a half an hour...You have on the order of seconds."

But when asked if this technology is in place today, Gill responded in typical Google fashion. "I could not possibly comment on that," he said. Likewise, when The Reg contacted Google today about its chiller-less setup, the company did not immediately respond.

In a March interview with Data Center Knowledge, however, Google senior vice president of operations Urs Holzle indicated that the company uses manual tools for load shifts between data centers. "Teams regularly practice failing out of or routing around specific data centers as part of scheduled maintenance,” he said. "Sometimes, we need to build new tools when new classes of problems happen."

And if Google does have automated tools doing this sort of thing, you have to wonder how well they're working. Earlier this year, two much-discussed Gmail outages involved Google shifting loads between data centers. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Cray-cray Met Office spaffs £97m on VERY AVERAGE HPC box
Only 250th most powerful in the world? Bring back Michael Fish
UK.gov pushes for SWIFT ACTION against nuisance calls, threatens £500k fines
DCMS seeks lowering of legal threshold to fight rogue firms
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
The DRUGSTORES DON'T WORK, CVS makes IT WORSE ... for Apple Pay
Goog Wallet apparently also spurned in NFC lockdown
Microsoft brings the CLOUD that GOES ON FOREVER
Sky's the limit with unrestricted space in the cloud
'ANYTHING BUT STABLE' Netflix suffers BIG Europe-wide outage
Friday night LIVE? Nope. The only thing streaming are tears down my face
Google roolz! Nest buys Revolv, KILLS new sales of home hub
Take my temperature, I'm feeling a little bit dizzy
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
How to simplify SSL certificate management
Simple steps to take control of SSL certificates across the enterprise, and recommendations centralizing certificate management throughout their lifecycle.