Warehouse-Scale Machines: The Datacenter as a Computer

The term "Warehouse-Scale" Machines has been coined.  The term describes the specific design that sites like Google use.  The data centers that Google runs aren't like other data centers where each rack has a mish-mosh of machines that result as various people request and fill rack space.  It's more like a single huge machine running many processes.  A machine has memory, CPUs, and storage and buses that connect them all.  A warehouse-scale machine has thousands of machines all with a few, specific, configurations.  You treat the machines as CPUs and/or storage; the network is the bus that connects them all.

There is a new on-line book (108 pages!) by the people at Google that are in charge of the Google data center operations (disclaimer: Urz is my boss's boss's boss's boss's boss)

The Datacenter as a Computer: An Introduction to the Design of Warehouse-Scale Machines
by Luiz André Barroso and Urs Hölzle, Google Inc.


As computation continues to move into the cloud, the computing platform of interest no longer resembles a pizza box or a refrigerator, but a warehouse full of computers. These new large datacenters are quite different from traditional hosting facilities of earlier times and cannot be viewed simply as a collection of co-located servers. Large portions of the hardware and software resources in these facilities must work in concert to efficiently deliver good levels of Internet service performance, something that can only be achieved by a holistic approach to their design and deployment. In other words, we must treat the datacenter itself as one massive warehouse-scale computer (WSC). We describe the architecture of WSCs, the main factors influencing their design, operation, and cost structure, and the characteristics of their software base. We hope it will be useful to architects and programmers of today's WSCs, as well as those of future many-core platforms which may one day implement the equivalent of today's WSCs on a single board.


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