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Google Data Centers More Efficient Than the Industry Average

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[qi:053] Google today released the findings of some of its internal research, which shows that the company runs some of the most efficient data centers in the industry, without resorting to exotic techniques. The findings were based on the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) metric, which is defined as the ratio of the total power consumed by a data center to the power consumed by the IT equipment that resides inside of it. For instance, a PUE of 2.0 means that for every watt of power needed to run equipment, it takes an additional watt to cool and distribute power to that gear.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2006 U.S. data centers had, on average, a PUE of 2.0 or higher, a number the agency expects to decline to 1.9 by 2011. Some newer data centers, meanwhile, will hit a PUE of 1.3. “We’re happy to report that today, on average for all Google designed data centers, we meet the EPA’s most optimistic scenario for 2011,” Google noted in the report, which involved looking at six of its data centers over a period of six months. And indeed, some of its newer data centers were found to have the lowest PUE.

We’ve achieved state-of-the-art efficiency by optimizing IT hardware and data center infrastructure end-to-end. The energy-weighted annual average PUE for six large-scale data centers reached 1.21, and some facilities reach quarterly PUE values as low as 1.13. Through these efficiency efforts we save hundreds of millions of kWhs of electricity, cut our operating expenses by tens of millions of dollars, avert the emission of tens of thousands of tons of CO2, and save hundreds of millions of gallons of water.



By looking at Google’s expanding data center operations and its growing power needs, it’s easy to see why the company has taken a leadership role in clean technology. Katie, Craig and Celeste follow its activities on our cleantech blog, Earth2Tech. As Katie points out today, Google was the second most-active VC investor in cleantech in the third quarter.

16 Responses to “Google Data Centers More Efficient Than the Industry Average”

  1. I fear that this post is more aimed at marketing material than real science. The math simply doesnt add up and their definition of PUE is highly circumspect and they dont event use the conventional use of the metric instead opting to create their own version of it which excludes components. I applaud their effort, but its obviously gamed. They dont even include smaller facilities which would naturally raise their average numbers. I have a more detailed post at:

  2. I’m excited to see Google take such a strong approach to promoting greater data center efficiency. But, I think what’s lost in this discussion is one of the most fundamental issues with the efficiency of a data center: power distribution. Google does call it out on their website(, saying, “Up to a third of the total energy consumed by a typical server is wasted before reaching the computing components. The majority of these losses occur when converting electricity from one kind to another. The power supply, which converts the AC voltage coming from a standard outlet to a set of low DC voltages, is where most of the energy is lost.” While technologies like “evaporative cooling techniques” are certainly important in taking excessive heat, by fixing the problem at the root – inefficient facility-level electric distribution – you can generate less heat in the first place (which means less to cool). This occurs because, as Google notes, there are conversions (AC to DC), as well as transformations (higher voltage to lower voltage), that need to take place in a data center, which create excess heat at each point of change. With AC power distribution you are looking at 5-7 conversions and transformations, opposed to 2 with DC power distribution – reducing energy consumption anywhere from 15-50%. When it comes to energy efficiency in the data center, I’m as big a fan as anyone of unique and inventive technologies, but if you simply start at the source (electricity), you may be surprised how far you’ll get (

  3. Well if you have a data center in Alaska with excellent air-flow design, I suspect you don’t need to spend anything on additional cooling other than server fans.

    It’s a fascinating read, which unfortunately skimmed a lot of details.

  4. Daniel Golding

    Some of Google’s numbers are suspect. While many are believable, their data for facility “B” is outside the envelope of current engineering. And while their search algorithms are wonderful, their mechanical engineers are just like the rest of us. PUEs of 1.2 in a very large facility with lots of sensors, in the right locations: possible. PUE’s of 1.15 or below? Not with our current cooling technology.