For so long the inner workings of Google has been mostly the stuff of anecdotes, much of it limited to their wacky headquarters in California where the cafeteria serves free, delicious, nutritious food and employees play tennis. Along the way there were hints of mysterious entities called “data centers” that held Google’s secrets in more ways than one. But now the genie is out of the bottle as Google leads journalists on tours of its various data centers, and we’re beginning to see the marvel of engineering that is Google. As it turns out, Google is just like us – maybe.
As we sing about a home where the deer and the antelope play, Google has a data center home in Council Bluffs, Iowa where deer can be seen playing. We can neither confirm nor deny that Google has data centers where the buffalo roam but there are at least a dozen different locations with more to come in Hong Kong and Singapore among others. And each center has a personality. Just as we may dress up in costumes, Google’s data centers have decorative themes, such as Nascar. Similarly, as we frequent mega malls and strip malls, Google has mega data centers larger than football fields and mini data centers like the local hardware store – all the better to “serve” us well.
We humans generate around three billion search queries per day and Google delivers them to us before we even finish typing. Every YouTube video, every free Gmail account, every advertisement we click on, is possible thanks to the engineering of Google’s massive data centers. While computer room air conditioners (CRACs) consume about 1.5 percent of all the electricity in the world, Google managed to break the CRAC habit with ingenuity and reduced electricity waste. In order for Google to offer free Gmail, it needs to offset the cost of operating its data centers – in short it’s about the green and the green. Now Facebook and Yahoo are using similar methods to cut their energy use.
Behind it all, Google also has its own version of SEAL Team 6. A group of reliability engineers behave just like humans, trying to disrupt Google’s operations just to test Google’s ability to recover from failure quickly. Consequently, we can all rest assured that Google will keep going even if vampires attack its data centers.