Spoiler alert: all is revealed. The author of the Rough Type post I've excerpted below warns: "I have to confess that I suddenly feel kind of empty. One never fully appreciates the pleasure of a good mystery until it's uncloaked."
via Rough Type:
Yesterday was a remarkable day for the small, slightly obsessed band of Google data-center watchers of which I am one. Around each of the company's sprawling server farms is a high metal fence patrolled by a particularly devoted squad of rent-a-cops, who may or may not be cyborgian in nature. Ordinary humans seeking a peek at the farms have been required to stand at the fence and gaze at the serene exteriors of the buildings, perhaps admiring the way the eponymous clouds of steam rise off the cooling towers in the morning:
[photo by Toshihiko Katsuda]
Everything inside the buildings was left to the imagination.
No more. Yesterday, without warning, Google lifted its skirts and showed off its crown jewels. (I think you may need to be Scottish to appreciate that rather grotesquely mixed metaphor.) At the company's Data Center Energy Summit, it showed a video of the computer-packed shipping containers that it confirmed are the building blocks of its centers (proving that Robert X. Cringely was on the money after all), provided all sorts of details about the centers' operations, and, most shocking of all, showed off one of its legendary homemade servers.
When Rich Miller, of Data Center Knowledge fame, posted a spookily quiet video of the server yesterday - the video looks like a Blair Witch Project outtake - I initially thought it was an April Fools joke:
But then I saw some sketchy notes about the conference that Amazon data-center whiz James Hamilton had posted on his blog, and it started to become clear that it was no joke:
Containers Based Data Center · Speaker: Jimmy Clidaras · 45 containers (222KW each/max is 250Kw – 780W/sq ft) · Showed pictures of containerized data centers · 300x250’ of container hanger · 10MW facility · Water side economizer · Chiller bybass ...
The server pictured in Miller's video was the real deal - down to the ingeniously bolted-on battery that allows short-term power backup to be distributed among individual servers rather than centralized in big UPS stacks, as is the norm in data-center design.
Now, CNET's Stephen Shankland provides a further run-down of the Google disclosures, complete with a diagram of the container-based centers and close-up shots of those idiosyncratic servers, the design of which, said Googler Ben Jai, was "our Manhattan Project."