back to article Google data center born without chillers

The cooling system inside Google's Belgium data center has no chillers. It uses nothing but outside air - so-called "free-cooling" - to keep temperatures down. And if the Belgian air gets too hot, Google shifts the data center's compute loads to other facilities. As we reported late last month, Google senior manager of …


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  1. Steve Evans

    My idea...

    They really should install data centres next to municipal swimming pools and saunas.

  2. Roger Jenkins

    Complex problem

    I am not an IT person, but, even I can see some of the problems associated with this data shifting.

    First you have to ensure that the centre to which the work is to be shifted can handle the extra load, or, the decision maker has to share the extra load between centres.

    I appreciate that inbuilt redundancy will allow a certain amount of load shifting, but, doesn't this mean that Google have to build a large amount of extra capacity into each of the data centres to allow for the possibility that that centre may have to increase its load for an indeterminate period of time? If the other data centres can handle the extra load whilst still working within tolerance, then it begs the question, do they need that last data centre at all as it is in effect a redundancy.

    Having said all of that (gobledegook) I'm sure they have crunched the numbers and proved the system costs.

  3. Michael Xion

    Here's a thought...

    If they balanced the Belgium data centre with one in the southern hemisphere, say Chile, they could spread the load between the two for different times of the year. Understandably, there'd probably be some infrastructure upgrades required in a south american country, but they could probably just buy the country outright anyway and do what they want.

  4. joe 14


    Why don't they put one in the arctic? At least the global warmest will have some tangible and concrete reason why the polar ice cap is melting! I'm sure MS would love to run with it too. Google kills polar bears and penguins! If you bing it you wouldn't be able to find it though, msn search by any other name still couldn't find it's ass in a hole in the ground!. Or is that the ozone layer?

    BTW Cisco did a study in some hot part of the US a while back and they found that even in the desert they could get a 95% reliability running a datacenter on outside air alone. Interesting read if you can find it. I forgot where it was so sorry all for not remembering.

  5. frank ly

    @Steve Evans re. My Idea..

    "They really should install data centres next to municipal swimming pools and saunas."

    Many people have had that idea, making good use of the waste heat. I can only assume that the data centre designers have decided that the cost of the heat exchanger infrastructure and operating costs would not be covered by the revenue from selling the dumped heat.

    Does anyone know more details about these design considerations?

  6. Paul 129
    Thumb Up

    @Steve Evans

    I Agree, you wouldn't believe how much a local council has saved on power by using its effluent at a base thermal load for the heat pumps that heat the municipal pool. Then again there had to be some bonus, out of the upper class of ratepayers demanding an outfall be moved (up river of course).

    At H..... City Council, they really do push sh*t uphill.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    what about all of the energy used to create the extra hardware that goes into the other datacentres? How does that balance out the lack of chillers? Do they operate n+1, n+2 or n+n redundancy?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    80f = 26C

    Metric please, only that backward country called the US* uses the old Fahrenheit system.

    * and a few other odd ball countries.


  9. David S

    @Steve Evans

    I remember driving somewhere at stupid-o'clock, listening to Farming Today on Radio 4, when a report came up on the subject of the cost-and-impact of heating all those greenhouses they use to grow out-of-season fruit. I had, the previous day, been reading about the problems with cooling datacentres, and the two problems kind of locked eyes in my head and made friendly gestures at each other.

    Sadly, it doesn't seem that the kinds of company that run datacentres seem all that interested in diversifying into agriculture. Such a shame...

  10. Robin 2
    Thumb Up

    @Steve Evans

    In Germany there's a whole town heated in this way, can't remember which one. Industrial wasted energy is used to heat the town. The upshot: the citizens get their heating for free or very cheap. This is also a very common approach in ex-communist countries, like here in Bulgaria. Except that here everything is falling apart, inefficient and corrupt so the benefits are minimal.

  11. John H Woods Silver badge

    @joe 14

    "Why don't they put one in the arctic? At least the global warmest will have some tangible and concrete reason why the polar ice cap is melting! I'm sure MS would love to run with it too. Google kills polar bears and penguins!"

    Not sure too many penguins would be dying in the arctic. Except of loneliness. A cause of death which, in the scientificially literate community at least, is increasingly likely to become the fate of global warming sceptics.

  12. Anonymous Coward


    What Steve Evans said. or use it to generate more electricity.

    Of course due to the laws of physics not as much as going in. But at least some...

  13. Tony S

    @Joe 14

    "Why don't they put one in the arctic?"

    At a recent conference, one of the speakers did indicate that Microsoft are looking at installing a data centre in Iceland - a much lower ambient temperature meaning less cooling required, really cheap power from geo thermal generation that is also very enviro friendly and to all intents and purposes limitless, plus the Icelandic government have invested a lot in making sure that they are on the main high speed Internet backbone between North America and Europe.

    (Plus the Icelandic govenrment are concerned about falling population levels and want some fresh human breeding stock which they are willing to pay for!)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Waste heat

    Didn't Telehouse anounce that they would use the waste heat from one of thier Docklands sites to heat houses near their datacentre?

  15. Anonymous Coward

    @David S

    "...heating all those greenhouses they use to grow out-of-season fruit"

    My company spends a fortune on cooling for our server room and another fortune on heating for the office on the other side of a 1-inch wall. Not to mention water heating, etc.

    Big Business isn't ready for lateral thinking.

  16. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Can't you use natural convection for the water?

    AFAIK, hot water raises and the cold stuff comes down, wouldn't there be scope to use that natural feature? I've seen it used in many places for water heaters.

    Practically any house in Cyprus has two tanks on the roof, one of which holds hot water created with a solar panel and natural circulation, and I used the same principle in Thailand to build one of those myself, but with one tank instead of two (don't ask, I got basically very, very bored one day and decided I wanted a *warm* water shower for a change :-).

    The way I see this work is collecting the heat internally, but with different CPU coller design than the pumped versions (natural circulation needs volume, not narrow channels) and then feed this up into the top of a collector tank or cooler array which deposits into a collector tank. You can leave this at natural pressure as long as you prevent ingress of anything else (the water needs treatment if you recycle it, but that's another advantage of natural circulation - the wide channels are much harder to block).

    I once built a half rack that way, but that had a pump for unit in the rack as I didn't have the tools to make my own water blocks. Those pumps pushed out into a car radiator in the top of the rack, and the output from that went into a bottom tank from which the water was picked up again. I didn't do that so much for heat as for noise, though :-).

    Anyway, just a curious question - I'm sure they must have considered that too..

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    are already planning a datacentre in Siberia....

  18. Damien Thorn
    Paris Hilton

    Give blighty a chance.

    Has google actually spent any time in belgium? the AVERAGE temperature of belgium is 1'C HOTTER than london for july, london being 17, belgium being 18.

    If i was building datacenters, id choose north of london, scotland, wales and places where the uk needs extra jobs anyway.

    Iceland would be a good place to build datacenters for free cooling, and the tip of scotland.

    I like europe and belgium but for once I can say londons a cooler place :)

    Paris, she goes down when she gets hot too.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why not use ground based cooling

    The ground tempurature below afew meters is pretty constant and cold, also why not pass thru street mains - great cool water thats passed underground. - maybe stop the pipes freezing so much in the winter :). Also the hot air - be nice to run that of into a greenhouse/growing room for food and leverage that heat. Or run a public pool heated from the data-center.

    Still a long way to go.

  20. Phil Endecott

    Weather forecast

    > When the temperature starts to excurse in a data center, you don’t

    > have the luxury to sitting around for a half an hour...You have on the

    > order of seconds.

    Rubbish. If it's already hot in the morning then you've got a couple of hours before the outside air temperature is too hot to be useful. Or, look at the weather forecast.

  21. Joe Desbonnet

    Them modern units....

    "80 degrees Fahrenheit "..... what would that be in Gas Mark ?

  22. joe 14

    hey John H Woods

    Yes I know they don't live in the northern hemisphere; it was meant to be a joke! I didn't know the Scientific PC police frequent this site as well. Sorry all for my feeble attempt at humor. :(

    I guess i learned my lesson and don't want to piss off the global warmest tree huggers. Opps i did it again.. LOL

  23. Chris 29

    temperature and Belgium

    80F is 26.667Celcius

    Where the google DC is located (Wallonia FRENCH speaking southern Belgium) temps will be a lil bit lower then the avg and they have a high unemployment

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