If you’re a computer nerd — or even just interested in the guts of what Google does and how it does it — there’s a great story in the New York Times today about the new server farms the search engine company is constructing on the shores of the Columbia River in The Dalles, Oregon. Two are built already and a third has received a permit. They are as big as two football fields, and each one has giant cooling towers four stories high attached to the end, in order to keep the massive farms cool as they search for all that
Microsoft and Yahoo are apparently building their own giant server farms upstream in Wenatchee and Quincy, Wash., which means that the Oregon-Washington region will likely need a few extra nuclear plants or dams or something pretty soon. Martin Varsavsky of FON says that when he asked Larry Page what the main factor limiting Google’s future growth was, the gazillionaire said it was electricity. The Times gives the latest estimate of how many servers Google is currently operating at its 25 locations around the world: about 450,000.
That figure has more than quadrupled since 2004, when Google’s server operation was already estimated to be one of the world’s most powerful distributed supercomputers. That’s a mind-boggling number. And based on estimates of the power that half a million servers would consume, that means Google’s electricity bill is likely somewhere between $50-million and $100-million every year — and growing