largest data center in the world

The majority of Americans — about 70 percent — own a computer that is connected to the Internet. Just as many own smartphones on which they use social media, send and receive emails, complete banking transactions, play games, get directions, and more.

 largest data center in the world

But have you ever stopped to think about what happens when you type in a search for the closest Mexican restaurant or “like” a friend’s photo on Facebook? While it might seem like magic when the information you’re looking for pops up on your screen, there’s actually a complex series of processing taking place, all within seconds. Many of those processes take place in data centers.

While most data centers are (deliberately) nondescript, they are actually perform some of the most important tasks to modern day life. Without data centers it would be all but impossible to complete many of the tasks that we take for granted — and many businesses would be unable to function. But how much do you really know about data centers? Unless you work in one, probably not much. That’s all about to change though, as we present some startling facts about data centers that you probably never knew — or even thought you wanted to know.

1. Data Centers Use Energy — a LOT of Energy

Running all of the equipment in data centers uses a lot of use — especially when you consider the heating, cooling, and other costs required to operate the center. In fact, data centers are responsible for about 2 percent of all of the energy usage in the U.S., and 1.5 percent of the world’s energy usage.

2. Data Centers are Everywhere

There are 3 million data centers in the U.S., which equates to about one for every 100 Americans.

3. The Largest Data Center?

The largest data center in the world actually has a long history of providing information to consumers. Located in Chicago, the 1.1 million square foot Lakeside Technology Center is housed in a building that was once home to printer R.R. Donnelly, which printed Sears catalogs and phone books. Today, the state-of-the-art facility is the center of the Chicago financial markets and houses the data for more than 70 financial services firms.

4. Outages

Data center outages are a fact of life, but they are becoming less commonplace. In fact, since 2011, the number of complete data center outages has decreased by 20 percent. The downside? The total cost of those outages has increased by 30 percent.

5. More Data than Ever

It’s a good thing that there are so many data centers — the world population is expected to create about 1.9 trillion GB of data this year, which is enough to fill 118 billion 16GB iPhones.

6. Public vs. Private

Data centers are vital to the growth of the cloud, and surprisingly, more businesses are opting for private clouds over public. According to a survey by the Uptime Institute, 49 percent of businesses are deploying private clouds — an increase of 14 percent since 2012 — while 25 percent of respondents report deploying to the public cloud, an increase of 9 percent.

7. Data Centers are Becoming More Efficient

Because data centers use so much energy, finding efficiencies is a priority. Many have committed to reducing energy usage and “going green.” Energy usage in data centers is measured in Power Usage Effectiveness, which gauges how much energy is used compared to how much is drawn. A “perfect” PUE is 1, meaning that all of the energy drawn is put to use. The average data center in 2012 had a PUE of 2, but today, most operate at a 1.8 or 1.9. Google, which processes a large percentage of the world’s data, actually maintains a PUE of 1.2, one of the lowest in the industry.

8. Major Companies Have Multiple Centers

Speaking of Google, the Internet behemoth operates at least a dozen major data centers in the U.S., as well as additional centers in Europe and Asia; the company, however, has never revealed the exact number and locations of all of its centers or the number of servers it operates, which is known to be more than 1 million. Facebook, which accounts for about 9 percent of all Internet traffic, has four private data centers and leases space in almost a dozen more. Amazon, the largest cloud-services provider in the world, has at least 28 sets of data centers around the world, housing between 1.5 and 2 million servers.

With so many companies eagerly adopting cloud technology, it’s no surprise that data centers have become such a vital part of our computing infrastructure and, in turn, our economy. Just something to think about the next time you ask Google for some help or log in to your bank account.