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Google shows off a rare glimpse of one of its data centers. The device pictured here is one of its cooling towers, which improve its energy efficiency.  (Source: Google)

Here, Google offers a peek inside its Belgium data center, which uses waste water for its cooling purposes.  (Source: Google)
Google is more than happy to be the posterchild of the green computing movement

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.



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Google and water treatment are the same thing
By chmilz on 10/6/2008 11:06:35 AM , Rating: 5
Whether it's Google or your local wastewater treatment plant, isn't the ultimate goal to sift through the crap and deliver the useful goods hidden within?

<shrugs>




RE: Google and water treatment are the same thing
By probedb on 10/6/2008 11:13:43 AM , Rating: 2
It doesn't say they're cleaning the water? Isn't the point that they're just reusing waste water for cooling rather than sending it to be cleaned and in the process using less clean water? Might be misreading it but that was my understanding?


By theapparition on 10/6/2008 11:22:27 AM , Rating: 2
Google is not using "toilet water". Just for basic sanitation, not to mention that solid matter does not mix with pumps too well. Rather, they are using wastewater, which means resultant waste from sinks, drains and gutters primarily from rain.


By ThisSpaceForRent on 10/6/2008 11:57:12 AM , Rating: 3
Actually having worked in the waste water industry for a time, I can say that the pumps do handle solid matter. It's just a matter of having large vanes on the pump to deal with large matter, and next thing you know you're pumping poo.


By xti on 10/6/2008 1:00:33 PM , Rating: 5
aint that some shit...


By Strunf on 10/6/2008 2:33:12 PM , Rating: 2
They do handle it but not when we are speaking of cooling things which would mean "small" pipes and the more "thick" the water is the bigger the pump you need to push it.


RE: Google and water treatment are the same thing
By mindless1 on 10/6/2008 5:12:35 PM , Rating: 2
It would be a trivial thing to have a tank the solids settle out in, or a filter for that matter.


By unrated on 10/7/2008 3:06:40 PM , Rating: 3
Except for the floaters


Is it really all that green?
By Fenixgoon on 10/6/2008 11:32:17 AM , Rating: 2
Obviously reducing energy usage will result in lower operating costs. Does it come to any surprise then, that by avoiding graphics chips, the servers reduce power consumption? It seems more like common sense than being green.

While this is "green" in some sense, it's not the typical green. And because it's not the typical green, it's a move that actually makes sense.

On a side note, some nuclear power plants are green twice over - once for being nuclear, and twice for using waste water for cooling. And don't forget a large and stable supply of power to go along with that.




RE: Is it really all that green?
By the goat on 10/6/2008 11:50:44 AM , Rating: 2
Make no mistake, google only uses these "green" technologies because it makes financial sense in the long term.


RE: Is it really all that green?
By Calin on 10/6/2008 3:14:49 PM , Rating: 2
Nuclear plants don't use waste water for cooling - they use natural water (taken from a lake or river)


RE: Is it really all that green?
By FITCamaro on 10/6/2008 4:02:40 PM , Rating: 3
Palo Verde uses waste water for cooling.


I sure how this statment is true
By the goat on 10/6/2008 11:48:02 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
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."


So google uses less power in their server during the fraction of a second required to respond to the search request, then my computer will burn during the several seconds it takes for me to type in the request plus the several seconds sitting idle waiting for the network latency to return my search results to me.

This does not surprise me at all. In fact I would be amazed if google spends 10% of the power my computer does during the search.

This is like comparing a Toyota Prius and an 18-wheeler. The gallons of fuel per pound-mile of cargo hauling ability of the 18-wheeler totally blows away the Prius.




By mindless1 on 10/6/2008 5:17:14 PM , Rating: 2
Actually a server at any website with a fair amount of traffic will use less power without even trying towards that goal, it's simple math really.

(Total power used) / (# of visitors served)


By phxfreddy on 10/6/2008 1:18:39 PM , Rating: 4
and not some Green Powder Fairy Dust sprinkled on.

...anyone else fed up to their ears with all this stupid green talk ? Really give it a rest people.

If you want to be religious...pick a real religion. Don't make up a new one then tell me its NOT a religion. I'm atheist hardcore. I simply do not want to hear about religion whether it be Islam or The Church of Later Day Warming.




By livelouddiefast on 10/6/2008 1:34:37 PM , Rating: 1
green tech creates jobs and has the potential to make energy poverty a thing of the past.

regardless of climate change or hippies it sounds like a good idea to me.


By ipay on 10/7/2008 5:28:53 PM , Rating: 1
You're confusing 'religion' with 'scientific reality'.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on...


But the smell?
By R0B0Ninja on 10/6/08, Rating: 0
RE: But the smell?
By MrTeal on 10/6/2008 11:28:30 AM , Rating: 5
Oh, don't worry. They only use those servers for 2 girls 1 cup searches.


Ok so
By Ammohunt on 10/6/2008 2:26:42 PM , Rating: 1
What they didn't post in the cost to implement "Green" savings. whats the short term ROI? other then a warm fuzzy feeling inside knowing that you are helping the Gaia




This is getting old
By captainBOB on 10/6/08, Rating: 0
"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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