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Welcome to the Server Farm

Updated on December 7, 2009

You would never know it. That is, where they are, what they do. They always are located in non-descript buildings somewhere out in suburbia or in the middle of nothing. There are no signs and they are deliberately anonymous. There is no hint that they are essential today for the Internet. What are they? Server farms.

Server farms are the nerve centers and hubs for the internet. One server farm located in Virginia handles 50% of all internet traffic in the US, 24\7\365. These towers of servers handle the mundane things we all are use to: email, web, search queries, various types of data, financial transactions, video and store medical records. They are also energy hogs and by 2012, 10% of all the energy sent to Virginia will be consumed by server farms. Some 30 miles from Washington DC, is the home of the server farms for Yahoo, AOL, ATT and many more, all well protected with security guards and inside cages. Some firms like Google refuse to reveal the location of their server farms that handle 1.2 billion people online daily.

Inside of server farms are rows and rows of blinking machines just like out of a Sci-fi movie, each stack is about eight feet tall loaded with servers times 10-20 per row, each with 44 servers!. Of the energy they consume, 50% is for the cooling of the servers because the farms packs them tight.

Server farms range in size from 5000 servers at Softlayer in Virginia to over 10000 servers used by Yahoo in one of their farms. Server farms consume a whopping 61 billion kilowatt hours annually, which is enough to power 5.8 million homes! Security is paramount because of the seriousness should one center go down, which is why they try to be invisible to the general public.

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