10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Server Farms

Sep 8 2014 | by Jonathan Nimrodi

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A Server farm (or server cluster) is  a group of computer servers usually maintained by an enterprise to accomplish server needs far beyond the capability of one machine.

Server farms are typically co-located with the system switches and/or routers which allow communication between the different parts of the cluster and the users of the cluster. The computers, routers, power supplies, and related electronics are typically mounted on 19-inch racks in a server room or data center.

Here are some interesting facts about server farms:

1. This is Facebook’s massive Arctic Sever Farm:

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It was built on the edge of the Arctic Circle in Northern Sweden. This server farm is able to let go of air conditioning for cooling and instead just use fresh Arctic air.

2. The performance of the largest server farms (thousands of CPUs and up) typically relies on the performance of the data center’s cooling systems and the total electricity cost rather than by the performance of the processors themselves. Computers in server farms run 24/7, and consume a lot of electricity. For this reason, the critical design parameter for both large and continuous systems tends to be performance per watt, rather than cost of peak performance.

3. Heat from the servers can be used to help heat buildings in cold climates, thus reducing the energy consumption of conventional heaters. A large data center has a capacity to use as much electricity as a small town in United States.

4. According to Green Computing, data centers older than 7 years are considered out of date. However, in practice the average life of a data center is considered to be 9 years.

5. The world’s biggest data center is based in Chicago, and is backed up by 53 generators. It utilizes 8.5 million gallons of cooling fluid per year. It is 1.1 million square fit in size and was converted to telecom use back in 1999.

6. Google has 12 data centers all over the planet, 6 of which in North America. Recent estimations predict that Google has more than 900,000 servers in all its data centers around the world. Google indexed more than 50 billion pages on all of those servers. This means that If each web page were a piece of A4 paper, a print version of Google’s indexed websites would be more than 1 kilometers high, slightly taller than El Capitan, the iconic granite monolith in Yosemite National Park in California —Now, that’s a book that’s longer than Lord Of The Rings.

7. Google’s data centers use around 260 million watts of power which accounts to 0.01% of global energy. This power is enough to consistently power 200,000 average homes. Google tries to rely on renewable energy sources to power a number of its global data centers, and in the US the company has even begun generating renewable energy – by selling excess supply back into the grid.

8. Amazon’s Data Centers has around 450,000 servers sited in 9 locations around the the world, most of them dedicated to its cloud customers.

9. Amazon have recently signed an agreement to build its 10th global data center in the city of Ningxia, China. This venue provides many benefits for data centers. Its cold weather in winter and cool weather in summer is great for heat dissipation of data centers.

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10. A recently released research from Greenpeace shows that Amazon Web Services is pretty isolated among other cloud vendors, as other providers continue to commit to powering their services with renewable energy sources. The cloud giant received among the lowest grades on energy transparency, renewable energy commitments, energy efficiency initiatives, deployment and advocacy. Meanwhile, other vendors like Google and Rackspace have long worked to make their operations greener and more energy efficient for a combination of Corporate Social Responsibility and cost reasons.

While going green is often at the bottom of the pile in terms of corporate priorities, it is starting to rise – and it will be interesting to see the effect of these rankings over time.

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