Home » Architecture » The Datacenter as a Computer: An Introduction to the Design of Warehouse-Scale Machines

The Datacenter as a Computer: An Introduction to the Design of Warehouse-Scale Machines

Barroso, Clidaras, and Holze, Morgan Claypool, Synthesis Lectures on Computer Architecture, The Datacenter as a Computer: An Introduction to the Design of Warehouse-Scale Machines, here. Oh these are google folks maybe talk to them. This area of multi warehouse application specific architecture design seems wide open. Just substitute floating point interest rate swap pre and post e-trade analytics and risk for all the web apps assumed in this lecture and proceed.  It’s not a supercomputer warehouse because the latency performance between warehoused matching engines is the target not the aggregate FLOPS. It’s more L2 enabled matches and less L3 oriented general purpose FP execution. It’s not a web service because you just want the multi-warehouse FP juice for your specific trading desk order execution. It’s multi-warehouse because you want P&L from crossing the various venues with COLOed analytics in Chicago, NY, and London. It’s also a little Radio Frequency NOLO so you get fat exclusive order-volume-distribution-dependent crossing windows outside your COLOs, but that’s for later – this is DynaRack.


As computation continues to move into the cloud, the computing platform of interest no longer resembles a pizza box or a refrigerator, but a warehouse full of computers. These new large datacenters are quite different from traditional hosting facilities of earlier times and cannot be viewed simply as a collection of co-located servers. Large portions of the hardware and software resources in these facilities must work in concert to efficiently deliver good levels of Internet service performance, something that can only be achieved by a holistic approach to their design and deployment. In other words, we must treat the datacenter itself as one massive warehouse-scale computer (WSC). We describe the architecture of WSCs, the main factors influencing their design, operation, and cost structure, and the characteristics of their software base. We hope it will be useful to architects and programmers of today’s WSCs, as well as those of future many-core platforms which may one day implement the equivalent of today’s WSCs on a single board.

Notes for the Second Edition

After nearly four years of substantial academic and industrial developments in warehouse-scale computing, we are delighted to present our first major update to this lecture. The increased popularity of public clouds has made WSC software techniques relevant to a larger pool of programmers since our first edition. Therefore, we expanded Chapter 2 to reflect our better understanding of WSC software systems and the toolbox of software techniques for WSC programming. In Chapter 3, we added to our coverage of the evolving landscape of wimpy vs. brawny server trade-offs, and we now present an overview of WSC interconnects and storage systems that was promised but lacking in the original edition. Thanks largely to the help of our new co-author, Google Distinguished Engineer Jimmy Clidaras, the material on facility mechanical and power distribution design has been updated and greatly extended (see Chapters 4 and 5). Chapters 6 and 7 have also been revamped significantly. We hope this revised edition continues to meet the needs of educators and professionals in this area.


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