The search engine giant won't reveal much about its infrastructure except that it is awesome.
The search engine now known as Google began in the garage of Sergey Brin and Larry Page, but the servers that the company uses to power all of its web-based services now handles more than 24 petabytes of data per day. Google is usually very tight-lipped when it comes to the details of its data centers, but a report released yesterday by Jonathan G. Koomey from Stanford University suggested that the company probably uses only 900,000 servers with a comparably small carbon footprint.
Koomey says that even though more services now use the internet - such as video streaming on YouTube or Google Documents - the increase in electricity consumption by data centers worldwide increased by only 56 percent and 36 percent in the U.S., contrary to a 2007 prediction that consumption would double by 2010. Koomey points to the recession but also credits Google's technology innovations in limiting power usage.
"Mostly because of the recession, but also because of a few changes in the way these facilities are designed and operated, data center electricity consumption is clearly much lower than what was expected, and that's really the big story," Koomey said.
Google executives told Koomey that it uses custom-built servers to deploy specific services - the server that stream that YouTube video of a corgi is optimized to do so better than the server used to send that email from your Android phone. Such optimization is different than other companies who typically use off-the-shelf servers to power web-based services.
Google said that its own data centers use approximately 1 percent of the worldwide electricity (198.8 billion kWh) used to power the entire internet.
"Google's data center electricity use is about 0.01% of total worldwide electricity use and less than 1 percent of global data center electricity use in 2010," said Koomey, emphasizing that exact numbers are extrapolated from the little information that Google provided him. "This result is in part a function of the higher infrastructure efficiency of Google's facilities compared to in-house data centers, which is consistent with efficiencies of other cloud computing installations, but it also reflects lower electricity use per server for Google's highly optimized servers."
Remember that every time you click on a Bing search result or insist on using that ancient Hotmail address instead of Gmail you are using more electricity than your more tech-savvy brethren. Don't be evil, and join the Google masses.