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Google's Data Center Illustrates How Going Green Can Save Big Bucks

Google's Data Center Illustrates How Going Green Can Save Big Bucks

Here, Google offers a peek inside its Belgium data center, which uses waste water for its cooling purposes.

Jason Mick | Daily Tech

July 22, 2009

Google is all about environmental protection and encouraging people to go green. From plans for tidal powered floating data centers, to massive investment in creative alternative energy startups, Google is leading the way when it comes to environmental efforts in corporate America.

The search engine firm says that going green wasn’t just a moral decision; it was a wise financial one as well. While Google remains tight-lipped on details of where its servers are and how many it has, it’s not afraid to spill the beans about its green server initiatives, which it says are saving it a great deal of money yearly. In fact, Google just launched a new site which does exactly this, proclaiming Google’s green merits on high.

On the new site, Google brags, “in the time it takes to do a Google search, your own personal computer will use more energy than we will use to answer your query.”

Google provides no hard numbers to back up its claims. However, it does provide an easy to follow common-sense five-step plan to transform your data center to be more efficient. It’s believable that by implementing these steps, the kind of results Google is claiming could indeed be achieved.

Among the upgrades Google is using is a water cooling system which implements an evaporative cooling process to cool the hot wastewater. Google also tries to be green by using partly dirty sewage water. It claims that by the end of this year, two of its data centers will be cooled entirely by waste water. It says that by 2010, 80 percent of its water needs will be met by waste water.

Google also claims to recycle all of its servers when it retires them, rather than contribute to tech trash. It says that 68 percent of the servers end up being repurposed, providing cost savings over new manufacturing.

Among the other steps Google takes is the use of better voltage regulators, wise placement of cooling fans, and avoiding the use of graphics chips. Google measures its total gains with the PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) metric. This measure compares the total power used by the data center to the power used by the servers and other computer parts inside of it.

A typical PUE might be 2.0, meaning for every watt used by the servers another watt goes to cooling and other purposes. In an ideal fantasy world, a PUE of 1.0 would be perfect, but in the real world this is unlikely to ever be attained. However, Google claims to have a PUE of 1.2, which seems almost too good to be true. Some, such as Tech Hermit, have called Google out claiming it is duping people with its PUE figures.

In the end, Google claims to save $30 per server/per year versus its competitors by adopting green technology. It also claims to save 500 kWh of electricity, 300 kg of CO2, and 1000 gallons of water per server over the course of the year.

While Google’s big claims may leave some skeptical, it’s still interesting to see Google starting to reveal how its data centers operate. For the extremely secretive company, even these minor disclosures are a big deal for those curious.

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.