David Papp Blog

So How Many Servers Does it Take to Run the Google Empire?

Much of the newer generation does not know what life was like BG (before Google). Anytime you have a question, you “google” it.

What kind of infrastructure is required to answers all of those questions. 10,000 servers? 100,000 servers? A half million servers?

It has been estimated from a number of sources that Google is running ONE MILLION servers in its empire.

Google has plans to expand its empire to 10 Million servers. This was presented to the public recently regarding a new platform called Spanner. The idea is to automatically move and replicate massive amounts of data between its worldwide mega data centers to help avoid traffic and hardware issues.

Google started out with a rack containing 5 servers in the late 90s. This is absolutely fascinating exponential growth.

Do you remember life before Google?

29 thoughts on “So How Many Servers Does it Take to Run the Google Empire?”

  1. Hi David,
    Great headline and super interesting piece. It is interesting to know that Google has that many servers and it’s also interesting you framed it “Empire” So true, the article is so short and left me wanting a little more, at least there is a link to check out Spanner though

  2. That’s amazing! I remember before Google we had Yahoo! and Internet Explorer. Internet has sped up so quickly that everything is accessible now!

  3. I don’t remember a life before Google. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to retrieve information in the past. Google has saved me numerous times with me doing my school and university projects last minute. I am not so shocked at the amount of servers Google got. They got a lot of answers to questions we all ask. Nobody ever say “Yahoo it”. It has become successful for a reason. And if you want to know that reason then Google it.

  4. OMG! Google has a million servers?
    I wonder how many servers have Facebook.

    Imagine the cost to maintain its servers! Wow! Google impresses me.
    Then they hope to reach 10 million? We can say they are optimistic at Google.

    I guess they also have those Youtube ….. I always wondered where they store all the vidoes. Now I understand! x)

  5. I’m young, so no, I don’t remember a world before Google! As long as I’ve needed computers for research of any kind, or just to ask dumb questions that I didn’t want to embarrass asking real people, I’ve always used Google. There would be an explosion of confusion and rage if Google suddenly disappeared. It really does run our lives! Thanks for sharing– and the BG (Before Google) comment made me laugh! I’ll definitely use it in the future.

  6. Wow, 10 millions. Think about it. If Google does have such a high amount of machines running how much do we run all over the world? It’s amazing.

    We have so much technology all over the world, it is fascinating and frightening at the same time.These 10 million PCs also mean that Google has 10 millions x ??? TB data. And a lot of that data is about us!

  7. That is simply amazing. I never think about things like this until I read an article or someone’s post. I’m curious to know how much heat that many servers generate and how do they keep them cooled? Could the servers lead to further holes in the ozone?

  8. Google started with five servers? That’s unbelievable, what an explosive growth. Anyway, it is not surprising they now have ten million servers considering the fact that Google owns some of the most trafficked web properties in the world. Two of their web properties i.e Google search engine and Youtube, are among the top ten websites in the world. I don’t remember anything about the pre-google days because i was too young to use the internet then, it must have been difficult searching for information on the internet.

  9. It is hard to visualize 10 million servers. I knew it had to be a lot of servers but 10 million is just a massive number. And to think they will be expanding. Quite amazing.

    Thanks so much for this info, David. I was always curious about this.

    Yes, I do remember life before Google. As a child, I always had a passion for research and for reading and so I read the encyclopedias and dictionaries and other reference books both at home and at the library. Having Google to turn to has been just amazing. It’s like having the world’s library at my fingertips. It has further fueled my passion for learning. It is so much easier than picking up those heavy hardcover books!

  10. I’m speechless..wow..just wow. One MILLION and plans to take it to TEN MILLION?

    That’s truly insane. But given how popular Google is and how fast the internet users are expanding it’s possible that they might need that many servers soon enough.

  11. Wow, this is definitely an interesting post. Like David said, it’s incredible to see the large amount of growth that has taken place at Google. From a measly 5 servers to a staggering 1 million servers is pretty impressive. I wonder how far they will imrpove in future years to come.

  12. WOW, that’s incredible. From 5 servers in the 90’s to plans for 10 million servers? Spanner seems like it would work too, I guess with all the data in the google Empire you need something like this.

    I remember before Google there was Ask Jeeves, anyone remember that?

    • Yes, I do remember Ask Jeeves. There were so many search engines back in the day.

      I also remember AltaVista, AllTheWeb, Lycos, HotBot and Excite. Also AOL Search and Yahoo, of course. I know there are others, but those are the ones that come to mind.

      When Google was just in the mix with all of the other search engines I always thought it was a goofy name. Same for Yahoo, very goofy. Names like these seemed to come from children’s storybooks and they always made the Internet seem like a virtual playground to me.

      But look at Google now, a worldwide empire with more servers than we can possibly envision. And in such a few short years. As a business success story, it is truly remarkable.

  13. 1 million servers…wow! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. They almost seem like a government funded corporation because they are expanding technology with leaps and bound that far outweigh the progress of their competitors.

    Did you know that google mail data is backed up by cassette tapes that are stored in warehouses inside of large boxes? I couldn’t believe it myself until I confirmed it with a web search. It amazes me that such a technologically advanced corporation is resorting to using cassette tapes to back up all of our e-mail data. That is scary.

    • soundabove, I didn’t know that. I Googled it and I was quite amazed. After all, cassette tape just seems so incongruous for a company with a million-plus servers.

      And it’s not just that Google has Gmail backed up on tape but that they actually had to use it to restore the lost data of users a couple of years ago after an outage!

      Gmail on cassette tape…Well, we can add this to the many, many surprising facts about Google!

      • Yes, I was also shocked when I found out that all of my e-mails were being backed up merely by cassette tapes. It is hard to believe, isn’t it? It sort of makes me want to switch e-mail providers. Google is fat enough by now, don’t you think?

        • Yes, indeed, it’s hard to believe. Cassette tape and the Google empire is a jarring image to say the least. When I think of computers and cassette tapes it makes me think of those room-sized computers from the 1960s that we sometimes see in movies from that era or in archival footage.

          And I’ve had Gmail for years. Who would have thought it was all on cassette tape. It just might be time to gravitate towards Hushmail for privacy and for protest!

          • You do understand that any other form of back-up, especially all the ones you likely thought of, are susceptible to some form of software degradation, correct? Hard-drives cannot magically just store data, they must contain a means to access the data within it, requiring software. Tapes require no such medium… that’s why the resorted to such an archaic method. Because an archaic method has no futuristic means of failure. Ever had a blue-screen? Wouldn’t want that to happen to the 425 million world-wide users!

  14. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised by the sheer volume of servers Google possesses. I mean it must filter billions and billions of hits every day. However, with latest innovation I reckon Google won’t need to increase the number of servers, just replace them. New hardware will mean you can get 1000x more space for the same size server as before. It’s the latest technology breakthrough. This will make hosting an empire… just that little bit easier.

  15. Intense how we’ve come from having a floppy disk with 1.38 MB on it to a local computer store selling 2 TB hard drives. Never actually heard about “Spanner” until now, and with the advent of Google Fiber, it makes you wonder where Google will stop! They’ve really made themselves eponymous within the current generation of internet users (me included), and trying to comprehend the massive amount of infrastructure required to run a global data center, that supplies its own redundancies, globally… Really does make you take a step back.

  16. I can’t even wrap my mind around one million servers, let alone ten million! Where do they store all of them? I’ve never really thought about all of the juice it takes to keep Google running. They must have quite the power bill 🙂

  17. This is a jaw-dropping moment! Of course, as a techie, I was thinking about around few thousand servers, but looking at this number, only one word “Awesome”!

    Life BG was indeed very much difficult as there was a need to “find” those answers and “recite” them so that you can “replicate” it whenever required. Considering the massive growth in information due to explosion of knowledge (of every type ;)) on Google, it makes you think how you used to get answers to your questions back in time!

  18. From five servers to one milion in under twenty years? Wow, that’s growth alright! I love the way that Google is now a verb – hardly any brand names manage to achieve this, with the exception of Hoover and Tannoy.

    Yes, life B.G. was inconvenient. If I wanted to know something, I’d have to wait until I got to the library. I love the fact I can find out anything I want within seconds these days!

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