In the year 2003, Google's engineer presented the architecture of the Google cluster, and discussed the most important factors that influenced its design: energy efficiency and price to performance ratio. Energy efficiency is key when the scale of the operation is large, as power consumption and cooling issues become significant operational factors, taxing the limits of available data center power densities.
The Google Modular Data Center is a modular data center built from a set of shipping containers, and used by Google to house some of its servers. The core of the company's data centers are composed of standard 1AAA shipping containers packed with 1,160 servers each, with many containers in each data center. According to PC Magazine, it was worked out to "about 2.26 million megawatt hours of electricity in 2010", which is about a quarter of the output of a nuclear power plant.
It was reported by The New York Times that Google's data centers consumed less than 1 percent of the world's total data center electricity consumption of about 198.8 billion kWh in 2010. Google's computers could be using somewhere in the neighborhood of 220 MW, which would be about 900,000 servers.
Google has been criticized for the high amount of energy used to maintain its servers. Google has pledged to spend millions of dollars to investigate cheap, clean, renewable energy, and has installed solar panels on the roofs of its Mountain View facilities. In 2010, before Google offset its emissions, it generated a total of 1.46 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. "Without efficiency measures in our data centers our footprint would have been about twice as big," Google maintained. "By purchasing and generating renewable energy, as well as buying high-quality carbon offsets, we bring our carbon impact to zero."
In 2010, Google invested $39 million in wind power. In 2012, Wired reported that Google inked a 10-year deal with a Oklahoma utility company, the Grand River Dam Authority, to supply 48 megawatts of wind-generated power to its Mayes County, Oklahoma, data center. "In the past two and a half years, it has invested $915 million in alternative energy projects, such as the Shepherds Flat wind farm". How much do data centers cost? In its earnings reports, Google reported $1.9 billion in spending on data centers in 2006 and $2.4 billion in 2007. Those expenses will be realized over time.
The above researches bring us a clear picture about the current condition and outcome that the existing search engines produce. The question is: is it necessary to consume that much energy in the first place? Because Google's architecture relies on replicating services across many different machines to achieve distributed computing/storage and fault-tolerance across the world, it is inevitable to have such massive power needs.
The second question is: are we going to stick with this architecture for years and decades in the search industry?