5 Lessons from Google That Can Save Your Company Money

Last Updated May 26, 2011 4:09 PM EDT

Google's data centers have always been shrouded in mystery and the company rarely gives specifics on its operations. But Google (GOOG) lifted the veil just a smidgen during its second annual data center efficiency summit to let everyday IT folk in on some of its efficiency secrets. The first secret about Google data centers? There is no secret.

The summit highlighted some high-tech experiments like Google's seawater-cooled data center in Finland. But much of the summit focused on simple innovations geared towards IT managers in charge of small to mid-sized data centers. Google even released a series of videos (which Earth2Tech first caught on to) to help explain how you can be as green and efficient -- well, almost -- as it is. Check out the videos and Google's main lessons below.

Google's primary point was smaller data-center operators can do more to reduce energy use and save money, according to folks who attended the summit and blogged about what they learned. And getting small to mid-sized data center operators to become more efficient is more important than you might think.

Why the small guys matter
Data centers use about 0.28 percent of total U.S. energy, according to Google Senior VP Urs Hoelzle, who clarified an oft-quoted but misunderstood statistic that puts energy use much higher, according to write-ups from both DataCenter Dynamics and James Hamilton, VP engineer for Amazon Web Services.

Of that, 72 percent of these centers are small and medium-sized data centers. And yet, most of the expertise, tech and money goes towards making the big data centers owned by Google, Facebook and Yahoo (YHOO) more efficient.

The lessons
1. Manage your PUE and measure it often. PUE is the ratio between how much energy your facility uses and the amount of power used by your IT equipment. Basically it measures how effectively you deliver power and cooling to your IT equipment. Google's main takeaway: Measure as often as you can, every second if possible. The more often you measure it, the more meaningful your results will be.


2. Manage your air flow. There is no one size fits all solution. Sometimes there are quick, cheap fixes. Google's main takeaway: The first step is to do some analysis (Google uses computation fluid dynamics) to find out where those hot spots are.


3.) Turn up your thermostat. Google debunks a commonly held belief that data centers have to be cold to operate safely. Google's main takeaway: Raise your temperature up to 80 degrees.


4. Use the local environment. Data centers often use expensive chillers. Google is a big promoter of free cooling. Google's main takeaway: Find cool, ambient temperatures outside of your data center and bring them in.


5.) Perfect your power distribution. In data centers, power is pulled from the electrical grid and converted to the voltages that are needed. There are a lot of conversion stages in there and that can impact efficiency. Google's main takeaway: The company is able to save $30 a year per server by minimizing those conversions.


Photo from Flickr user Brooks Eliott, CC 2.0
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