High-end massive data centers of giant service-providers have become an arena of innovations and optimization techniques beyond my wildest dreams from just few years ago. Google, Amazon, Apple, SalesForce, Facebook and multiple others have created magnificent infrastructures. A thing of pure geeky beauty. Each of these providers have developed their own different philosophy and approach to achieve the levels of efficiencies needed and it is always fun to try to learn how they are doing it.
One of the interesting things about large scale data-centers is the heating problem, or if you like the cooling problem. I.e. this massive amount of servers in a relativity small physical space, generates a huge amount heat. Something need to cool it and it can cost the provider a lot of money and infrastructure to do that.
Providers are looking into alternative ways to cool the servers in the most efficient way. One approach is to look at the geography and what can be done to take advantage of places that are naturally cooler and use the environment to cool the data-center. When done properly it can dramatically reduce the amount of electricity required to operate the data-center which is good for the environment as well as good for the business. When green (environment) meets green (money).
Google recently published information about their new Hamina (Finland) data-center that is taking these concepts to the next level. Located just at the seashore of the south coast of Finland, Google acquired a retired paper mill construction that was built in the 1950s and started to ingeniously think about transforming it to a data-center. At first you must be saying to yourself what an old paper mill had to do with a modern data-center. Well, the answer is in the cooling system.
The idea is to take naturally cool seawater straight from the ocean and use them to convert the heat out of the data-center. Eliminating the traditional energy hungry cooling systems that are based on large scale air-cooling or water-cooling mechanism. To do that the old paper mill had just the perfect infrastructure, large buildings, just at the shore line, with already built tunnels to support the paper mill.
Google claims (and I believe them) this is going to become one of the most energy efficient data-center in their infrastructure if not in the world. Well that is really cool and a good reason to admire their thinking beyond the immediate profit (which is clearly there as well). See more details at this video: