Thursday, June 28, 2007
Computers are cheap, but not power
If you're Google, or any other company building out massive datacenter farms, cheap hardware is a strategic advantage. It means you can build larger and larger datacenters for less money. Computers may be smaller and cheaper than ever, but they still require electricity to operate. You now have a new problem. The electrical power used to drive all that free hardware you've amassed becomes your greatest expense:
All this tells us is that Google's problems aren't necessarily our personal problems. Not exactly news. But if you multiply that result by the tens of thousands of servers in Google's server farm, all operating at near 100% load, it's a whole different ballgame. Efficiency is a strategic business decision for Google. Considering the millions upon millions of computers in the world, more efficient PC power supplies are also part of the greater public good. Do no evil, indeed.
Power is a concern at The Company. Not only is it powering the computers, but the support equipment (mainly the honking air conditioning required) that needs to be factored in as well.
In fact, Smirk had me building a ton of firewall boxes (as well as our name servers) out of old Cobalt RaQs, not because they were cheap (well, yes, they are) but because they use very low power. We even tested using a Mac Mini as a very low cost server platform. The RaQs worked well. The Mac Mini … eh.
What's really working well are the virtual servers—running multiple servers on a really large server. That's working for us, as a small webhosting company. Google, on the other hand, is another beast entirely.