One Google query is worth a thousand machines

Google, who have been recently claiming to make moves towards an ecologically friendly future, had some potentially embarrassing news about their infrastructure made public.

In a keynote, Jeff Dean revealed that in the past decade queries and the computing power to process such has increased by a factor of 1000.

An infrastructure change which allowed Google's systems to hold an entire search index in memory utilizes 1000 machines to do so. Previously, without such change only 12 systems were utilized for a single query.

Though a large number of systems, and as such, a seemingly large amount of power consumption, Google stands by it's position that it's datacenters are the most efficient in the world. Google revealed in January of this year that a search uses the same amount of energy that the human body will burn in 10 seconds; 0.0003 kWh.

The question at this moment is whether or not power-efficiency justifies such an 'en masse' use of such systems.

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18 Comments

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as others have said 1 query might take 1000 machines but without knowing how many querys the machines process In a given time period it's impossible to measure thief efficency.

Edit: sorry should say their not theif predictive text gone wrong (posting from mobile dev on train)

Here's a question. Image you have 1000 machines. Which is more efficient? Each machine answering one query per second, or each machine answering 1000th of each query, where each piece takes 1000th of a second to answer? They both do 1000 queries per second (ignoring overhead), but the second one answer queries much faster. They both have the same power efficiency. Google does the latter, and so the article doesn't mean much without the full story.

As for people saying "who cares" and "google can use as much power as they want", Google cares. The management cares, employees care, stockholders care. Even a 1% improvement in efficiency in certain systems can mean huge savings in electricity, machines, cooling, carbon, etc.

I can imagine a time soon that governments do say how much power a computer can use or at least make them carry an energy rating in the same way as fridges, washing machines etc. already do. However I'd be suprised if there were any limitation for the likes of Google.

Although gradually, when were these changes made? I don't remember being slow at searches circa 1999-2000, that they need to keep the entire ever growing index in memory. That said, they can do whatever they want IMO. Probably, the countries in which these companies' infrastructure resides will start regulating laws for maximum power they can consume.

Google can use as many computers as they like, in my opinion, as long as they maintain the speed at which the search goes through the millions of webpages in its index.
Pressing Ctrl + F in large word documents can take longer than google does to search through way more text.

I've been wondering - has anybody else noticed reduced search term functionality in google? Sometimes I like to make very specific searches and I either get a warning saying that I might be a computer o_O or it doesn't treat all the search terms properly, e.g. the . such as hello.world used to mean "hello world" or "hello-world" or "hello_world" etc. but it doesnt seem to work anymore. (Hello world is a bad example because the words are normally found next to eachother anyway)
Another edit: Similar with the * wildcard, searching hel* -hel returns nothing but searching hello -hel returns results.

Indeed! Google can use whatever amount of power they want... there should be no question whatsoever! Does anyone tell/force you how much power your PC should use?

Google can use as many computers as they like. And that's it. If their query speed gets slower, then their competitors will be getting more users. I don't see where and why Google should judged.

Digix said,
really.... who gives a flying crap how much power google uses

Some people may care. This is still news, Digix. If you are not interested in it, why comment? Why not just pass?

You should, they use quite a bit of power. Not to mention they hid the fact before now using the single query as a front. People didn't even think about how many searches they get per day, hour, minute, or even second across the world.

This is interesting. Interesting things are supposed to be news, champ. Love the trolling though.

Jeff Dean stated that search queries and processing power has increased by a factor of 1000.

It's fallacious to equate search queries and processing power to the number of computers used.