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Cloud // Platform as a Service
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3/13/2014
09:06 AM
Keith Dawson
Keith Dawson
Slideshows

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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Microsoft in Chicago 
At 700,000 square feet, this facility ranks in the top 10 in terms of physical size in DataCenterKnowledge.com's 2010 listing. Its claim to fame is high-density containerization: Microsoft's 'ITPAC' boxes each contain about 2,500 servers. They have no backup power. If an ITPAC fails, its compute load is designed to fail over to a spare ITPAC. 
Microsoft is continuing to use these containers in new data centers, such as this one in Boydton, Virginia. The company claims that its modular approach and self-contained ITPACs let it build out a data center in half the time traditionally required. 
HP, IBM, Dell, and Sun (Oracle) sell containerized data centers. Presumably they all pay a license fee for Google's patent. Google and Microsoft are the biggest cloud players using this modular technique, and eBay is experimenting with the approach. eBay claims to have measured (momentary) PUE values between 1.04 and 1.02 for one of its server boxes under load. Power unit efficiency is a measure of how much the electricity coming into the building is used in computing versus other facility needs. Most traditional data centers operate at PUE of 2.0, or twice as much power delivered as used in computing.
(Image: Microsoft)

Microsoft in Chicago
At 700,000 square feet, this facility ranks in the top 10 in terms of physical size in DataCenterKnowledge.com's 2010 listing. Its claim to fame is high-density containerization: Microsoft's "ITPAC" boxes each contain about 2,500 servers. They have no backup power. If an ITPAC fails, its compute load is designed to fail over to a spare ITPAC.

Microsoft is continuing to use these containers in new data centers, such as this one in Boydton, Virginia. The company claims that its modular approach and self-contained ITPACs let it build out a data center in half the time traditionally required.

HP, IBM, Dell, and Sun (Oracle) sell containerized data centers. Presumably they all pay a license fee for Google's patent. Google and Microsoft are the biggest cloud players using this modular technique, and eBay is experimenting with the approach. eBay claims to have measured (momentary) PUE values between 1.04 and 1.02 for one of its server boxes under load. Power unit efficiency is a measure of how much the electricity coming into the building is used in computing versus other facility needs. Most traditional data centers operate at PUE of 2.0, or twice as much power delivered as used in computing.

(Image: Microsoft)

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kadawson
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kadawson,
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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,
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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,
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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,
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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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