Business Insider

Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google

The “physical Internet” is actually pretty colorful.

This article originally appeared in Business Insider.

Data centers are typically shrouded in secrecy because they are the brains behind tech companies. 

But not Google. The search giant has shared with the world photos that lift the veil off its massive and beautiful data centers around the world, in places both domestic, including Iowa, Oregon, Georgia, South Carolina, and Oklahoma, and abroad, in Finland and Belgium.

Google says when you’re on its website, you’re accessing one of the most powerful server networks in the known universe. Looking at these images, it’s hard to disagree.

Google has been working on building its data centers for over 12 years. The search giant’s centers are efficient, take advantage of renewable energy, and are as environmentally friendly as possible.

The following tour is a glimpse inside a few of Google’s data centers, which it calls the “physical internet.”

Our tour starts outside one of Google’s data centers in Council Bluffs, Iowa. There is a family of deer outside to greet us.

Inside the Council Bluffs, Iowa data center, there is over 115,000 square feet of space. These servers allow services like YouTube and search to work efficiently.

This place is actually enormous!

In the campus network room, routers and switches allow data centers to talk to each other. The network connecting these sites can run at speeds that are more than 200,000 times faster than a typical home Internet connection.

Moving over to the Oregon data center, we see that this space is equally impressive.

Here is a view inside the Douglas County, Georgia data center. The colorful pipes send and receive water for cooling the facility. Bikes are the preferred method of transportation inside the massive center.

Google keeps pipes like these ready with highly-pressurized water, in case of a fire. The water is cleaned and filtered, so it won’t contaminate the facility in the off chance they need to use it.

The blue LEDs on this row of servers let employees know that everything is running smoothly. Google has purchased 1000 megawatts of renewable energy to power these data centers now and into the future.


Failed drives are immediately destroyed on site. Google says this is part of its commitment to keeping users’ data safe.

This is where all data is backed up. A robotic arm helps in loading and unloading tapes when employees need to access them. Each tape has a barcode so that the robotic arm can easily locate them.

This is rare look behind the server aisle. Hundreds of fans can be seen taking hot air up and away from the racks, cooling it, and recycling the air back through.

This beautiful view was taken outside of Google’s data center in Finland which sits on the shores of a frozen gulf. This building was once used to house a paper mill.

Here is another view inside Google’s facility in Finland. Server floors like these require massive space and efficient power to run all of Google’s products. Google’s data centers use 50 percent less energy than an average data center.


Running the machines to compute this much data can create some serious heat. That’s where the coolant systems come in. Seawater from the Gulf of Finland entirely cools the data center there.

Inside the former paper mill is a gorgeous conference room. This is just outside of a sauna where employees can go to relax whenever they like.

Here is a group photo of the Hamina team enjoying ice fishing right outside of the office. Google says that they chose Hamina because the town “has the right combination of energy infrastructure, developable land and available workforce for the data center.”


Kevin Smith wrote an earlier version of this post.

See also: Google’s New Smartphone—The Nexus 6