Forget the Mile-High Club — Who’s in the 50,000 Servers Club?

Server room and devicesRich Miller over at Data Center Knowledge just blew my mind with his list of the number of servers various companies run. Spurred by the news that Rackspace (s RAX) has 50,000 of them, he pored over public filings and at least one analyst report to come up with both actual and guesstimated figures, including 48,000 (that’s straight from the company) for Akamai (s AKAM) and more than 450,000 (that’s a guess) for Google (s GOOG). The numbers are mind-blowing from a management and an energy consumption perspective. They bring home the fact that scalable computing is not just about thousands of servers, but tens of thousands of servers.

The act of managing all these servers is one reason Cisco (s csco) thinks its unified computing system has an edge and why most of the large server vendors are preaching the value of automation. Ted Schadler, a Forrester analyst, told me on Friday that one of the biggest shifts in thinking for IT folks contemplating the cloud isn’t just the idea of virtualization but the fact that all those machines must be automated. Whereas a corporate data center may have one person for every 50 servers, Schadler says the Googles and Amazons of the world need to be able to manage some 10,000 servers with just one admin.