Large Shipping Boxes Used as Container Data Centers

Google uses modified regular shipping containers for it performance data centers. They are stacked neatly in hangars with almost no manpower. This unconventional data center approach appears to allow them the ultimate labor cost control. What is more, used shipping containers were already outlined to provide rather usable commercial and personal living space so using them for data center storage is rather logical.

These large shipping boxes, made of metal, are plugged into a highly efficient HVAC system for ventilation, air conditioning and humidity control. They use a centrally controlled water cooling system which is piped to the individual containers and then plugged under the metal bar flooring into each individual server container. They are packed full of commodity hardware which runs 24×7 and executes queries and other requests. Google runs these containers at 27C degrees (almost 81F) temperature and saves on cooling by allowing warmer temperatures. The computer hardware would invariably fail and its failure would be duly noted yet word on the street has it that no steps would actually be taken until about 40 per cent of the boxes stop working. Once this threshold is reached, the whole container gets replaced with all its contents – a rather interesting model of data center performance. This would be a real test for hardware failure ratios – it would be great to have this information handy once it is time to do hardware upgrades at the office. Google seems to do the ultimate hardware tests.

What comes to Google’s help here is the fact that the majority of its business is not bound to service level agreements. Or at least not guaranteed ones. While there certainly is an internal regulation on how long a search should take or how available a service should be, we really do not care if we query the search engine and it takes two or three seconds longer to deliver results. Certain branches of the business such as Google docs or other to-pay for services are set up in a different manner to provide the contracted services without any complains. Maybe there are different data center specs for these paid services or a special model of data center services in this case which varies from the container-based pattern.

Similar usage of large shipping boxes is unconventional. While this blog has touched on cardboard, furniture or other less popular items made of corrugated fiberboard, the IT industry has never been a subject. Such data center approach is certainly unheard of. This could be the reason why Google have been so successful and is abreast of other search engine traffic contenders.