Googles Servers Revealed


We’ve often wondered what kind of hardware the giant of the internet, Google, used to handle it’s data. They’ve recently revealed what their main workhorses are. It’s a custom motherboard made by Gigabyte with two processors, and eight RAM slots. The main point of interest on these is the fact that each server and piece of network equipment has it’s own battery backup. This may add a little money in the initial cost of the unit, but apparently it is a much more efficient way of handling power. Be sure to click over to the site and check out the shipping container setup that they use. Each container has 1,160 servers. They aren’t the only ones using this method. Microsoft has adopted it for their newer facilities and Sun has done some extensive testing on how these portable facilities handle earthquakes. You can see the quake test after the break.


34 thoughts on “Googles Servers Revealed

  1. what blows me away is how much these server racks resemble the original google servers as on display at the computer history museum. they are more professional obviously, with a custom board and battery backup. they also make mention of thermodynamic design for air inlet and outlet and they’re using professional building materials (i.e. steel instead of pegboard and zip ties). that being said, these are pretty much the same thing…i love that.

  2. I don’t think the story is fake. It was published on April 1st, but not everything is a prank on April 1st.

    Most prank articles get updated a day later to say they were a prank. This one got updated a day later to correct facts…

  3. Hmmm …
    NOT a server motherboard .. looks more like a gaming PC
    No management port, no server mgt controller chipset, no thermal fuse on batteries, no memory redundancy, only one LAN port, a serial port? HUH?

    Definately an April Fool – Good one tho’ LOL

  4. Wow, I had to comment on the Cnet site because the comments were full of crap like: “hard drive not connected, unless it connects to the motherboard[/sarcasm]”

    Freaking idiots.

    I would term this as a hack, it is made from standard parts turned to a different use. It has an ATX looking PSU that makes 13+ volts only, and uses a small battery as the backup. Also it only runs on 220v -240v, thus making it more power efficient.

    Plus anything with Velcro as a design element holding in the Hard drives, PSU and UPS battery qualifies as a hack in my book.

    Now if only they could sell these with a 5-10% margin to us home-based hackers :), (or better yet, refurbished for next to nothing)

    I think the industry should move to 12v input only motherboards. As the Cnet article mentions it is only $2 more for the motherboard components, and then PSU’s can drop dramatically in price.

    I guess we would need to have drives that don’t use 5volts, but that should be simple.

    I like the battery, it may be possible to use one as the buffer to the power delivery, thus negating the need for expensive filtering.

    It certiantly feels ‘hacky’ enough to be a hack to me.

  5. @Rob: i guess you did not read the article. google has always said that their servers are unique due to their use of lots of simple low powered hardware. it was estimated in 2006 that they had over 450,000 servers. the redundancy is in the number of machines themselves.

  6. I think its real, it looks like a cheap to make system which is easily removed and installed if there was something wrong with it.

    The hdds are held in by velcro for quick change over. the board doesent have anything on there that it doesent need.

    Looks to me like a system designed to be cheap and easy to fix. A company that has almost half a million servers would want something like that.

  7. definitely a april fools joke… if nothing else, if that was an actual server they would at least put the battery to the back to make alot smaller. And also, i see no LAN port -_-. oh and if they needed a quick change of hdd they wouldn’t use a design where you first have to remove whole server slice out of rack to change it.

  8. Haha, if it is an april fools joke then check out the black and white picture of dozens of them in racks.

    How are they going to fake that?

    It is supposed to be a frame cap from a video, so if you could see the video it would be conclusive.

    The hardware photos and specs are enough for me though.

  9. Back in early 90’s Olivetti had 486 servers with built-in 12V battery. Battery was connected to power supply and functioned as UPS. Olivetti PSU had all normal voltages so it was bit different than this Google variant, but exactly same idea. I saved two of those Olivetti power supplied years ago because they were special, but sadly have lost them since.

  10. yeah what’s so funny or prankish about cleverly designed servers that google would need to run as effeciently as it does? i originally thought it was a prank on apr 1st until i looked at it more and realized there was nothing funny about it.

  11. People who think this was a prank are severely misguided.

    Before google released the photos, it was commonly known that google:

    – prefers simple, cheap, commodity hardware
    – uses velcro instead of screws
    – was doing serious research into 12V systems with embedded battery backup. (iirc there were also hints that they were using this config in production)
    – doesn’t replace servers as they fail. its a periodic task where workers pull the failed servers in a center en masse, repair them, and put them back into service
    – uses RAM for active datastores, with HD being merely a backup

    The pics are /perfectly/ consistent with what was already known.

    I can’t wait until pics come out of Google’s 10Gbit custom switches — I bet they look a lot alike…

  12. Excuse me!
    It’s not a prank. If anything it reflects upon Google’s talents for doing the impossible. According to one Google Engineer I know rather well, all of their hardware is built from off the shelf parts, and is further customized.

    But when it exhibits a solid failure, it gets yanked and a new one gets installed.

    And that Olivetti 486 job you’re discussing was one of many they built for AT&T at that time AT&T owned them. They ran the ESS or switches that ran the exchanges, they were part of the 3B series of designs.

  13. A couple years ago, you could purchase gigabyte Mainboards (8IPXDREL-GG) on ebay (also some geek website) – very minimal; 2x 2.4 xeons, 6x Memory slots (PC-2100), IDE, 2x USB, 1x PCI, onboard video and serial.
    These were being solds in the hundreds quantity – I do wonder if it’s possible they decided to sell a heap of ‘old stock’.
    These systems wouldnt need much – since all they’re doing is sitting there and collecting data, and listening to instructions from the ‘main’ server. Highly feasible, and cost effective.

  14. >wow..srsly..its a 360 MB with the case ripped away….extra storage added…

    Last I checked, a 360 runs on 3-core IBM PowerPC processors, not twin Xeons. GYFS.

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