Cloud // Platform as a Service
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3/13/2014
09:06 AM
Keith Dawson
Keith Dawson
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8 Datacenters For Cloud's Toughest Jobs

Each of these innovative datacenters represents the best in class for a design or operational factor. Google's employee sauna? That's just a bonus.
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Companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook don't just innovate with products: Just look at their datacenters. The designs and operations playbooks of these new centers aim to lower costs, increase reliability and maintainability, and improve agility, while reducing energy use and carbon footprint.

As big data and cloud computing push the limits of traditional datacenters, new trends in datacenter innovation have followed. Google started the ball rolling when it scaled up its search operations starting in the late 1990s. By 2001, Google, still three years away from its IPO, was building its own servers from piece-parts, seeking not only economy but also reliability and ease of maintenance. Prior to 2003, Google was investigating putting large numbers of servers in a shipping container. That year it applied for a patent on the idea of the modular, drop-in-place datacenter.

Back then, Google was saying very little about its datacenter operations. A favorite Silicon Valley guessing game was to speculate on how many servers the company ran. The search giant was gradually forced into more transparency by the rapid rise of Facebook, which discussed its operations in detail.

Google's containerization patent was issued in 2007; it wasn't until 2009 that the company confirmed that it had been installing modular, containerized server farms since 2005. Google is now quite chatty about its datacenters.

Facebook built its first from-scratch datacenter in Prineville, Ore., open-sourcing the designs of everything it used -- from servers and storage to networking and even the specifications for datacenters themselves. In April 2011 Facebook announced the Open Compute Project, a non-profit charged with the stewardship of these hardware blueprints.

As Microsoft, Apple, and eBay began building large scale, cloud datacenters during the last half decade, they joined the pioneers in looking for ways to reduce energy consumption in their datacenters. Innovative power and cooling schemes multiplied. Soon the competition shifted to green energy: How much of a datacenter's power could be supplied from renewable sources?

Each of the following cloud-scale datacenters breaks new ground in some dimension of its design or operation -- from modularity and efficiency to scalability and green energy -- and each has something to teach us about how datacenter design is evolving. Take a closer look.

Over a course of more than three decades, Keith Dawson has developed software, managed teams of architects, and worked extensively in the software development industry as a writer, editor, and pundit. He has written for Media Grok, Media Unspun, Slashdot, The CMO Site, and ... View Full Bio

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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
3/14/2014 | 6:15:48 AM
Google's data center in Hamina, Finland
Keith, 

The sauna in Google's data center in Finland is normal. There are more saunas than cars in Finland. You can find a sauna in most companies, factories, apartment buildings, and of course many people have their own sauna at home.

It is common for employees to go to sauna after their work hours before going home. This sauna was already there for the employees from the old paper mill. Many business meetings take place in sauna. :)

-Susan 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 5:22:32 PM
Re: Measuring that carbon footprint
>I'm sure extending the pipes would be preferrable to shovelling the #$%! long distance.

#$%! in, #$%! out. Welcome to the Internet!
kadawson
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kadawson,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 2:37:37 PM
Re: Measuring that carbon footprint
Facebook already has a big presence in North Carolina. Chickens are big on the easern shore of Maryland & Virginia, and I don't know of any data centers there at all. Fiber? They could run it along the world's 25th longest bridge-tunnel back to the mainland at Virginia beach. 
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 2:27:23 PM
Re: Measuring that carbon footprint
Carolina pig farms and Delaware chicken farms would both be ready sources of methane. Don't know if the big backbone pipes of the Internet are there locally, but I'm sure extending the pipes would be preferrable to shovelling the #$%! long distance.
kadawson
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kadawson,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 2:22:22 PM
Re: Measuring that carbon footprint
I was happy to read up on Apple's use of methane at their Maiden TN data center; didn't have space in the slideshow to go into all I learned, but most or all of the methane comes from local sources such as farms. That's a lot of a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide removed from the biosphere, and energy generated at no additional cost to the carbon footprint. Those Bliss fuel cells are impressive.
kadawson
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kadawson,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 2:15:21 PM
Re: Footprint! What Footprint?
Now there's a fine research project. Are there more PCs on individuals' (and employees') desks, or are there more servers in racks in data centers? How does the total power consumption compare?

I read one guesstimate a year or two back that data centers used 2% of the electricity generated in the US. For most other nations the figure would be lower than that.

Iceland may already be ahead of the US in percentage terms. They are ambitious to become the go-to place for locating data centers, and they generate 1/475th as much energy as the US for a population 1/961 as large. 100% of their generation is renewable, from geothermal and hydro.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 1:57:24 PM
Measuring that carbon footprint
I agree, Doug. The cartbon footprint of these modern, cloud data centers puts the enterprise data center to shame. One way of looking at it is that they tend to have a power unit efficiency of 1.1 vs. 2.0 for the enterprise. In the latter case, twice as much power is delivered to the data center as is actually used in computing. Plus think of all the trips to the Post Office that Facebook is eliminating. Think of all the trips to the store that Amazon.com is eliminating. Granted the delivery truck has to show up with the goods, but one truck making multiple stops in the neighborhood probably is more efficient than everyone traveling across town to the store. The N.Y. Times only scratched the surface of the impact of large data centers and came away knowing it didn't like them. I disagree.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 11:51:21 AM
Footprint! What Footprint?

Some people rail about the carbon footprint of these huge data centers, but reading these descriptions it's clear that there's lots of innovative work being done on ambient cooling, methane-driven power cells, and other energy savers. The bigger point I'd make is that economies of scale of large data centers give them a lower carbon footprint per compute cycle than lots of smaller data centers. Imagine the collective footprints of all the individual personal computers in the world!

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Google in the Enterprise Survey
Google in the Enterprise Survey
There's no doubt Google has made headway into businesses: Just 28 percent discourage or ban use of its productivity ­products, and 69 percent cite Google Apps' good or excellent ­mobility. But progress could still stall: 59 percent of nonusers ­distrust the security of Google's cloud. Its data privacy is an open question, and 37 percent worry about integration.
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