TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Hiding in Plain Sight, Google Seeks More Power

Hiding in Plain Sight, Google Seeks More Power

Monty Solomon (
Wed, 14 Jun 2006 23:45:15 -0400

The New York Times
June 14, 2006

THE DALLES, Ore., June 8 -- On the banks of the windswept Columbia
River, Google is working on a secret weapon in its quest to dominate
the next generation of Internet computing. But it is hard to keep a
secret when it is a computing center as big as two football fields,
with twin cooling plants protruding four stories into the sky.

The complex, sprawling like an information-age factory, heralds a
substantial expansion of a worldwide computing network handling
billions of search queries a day and a growing repertory of other
Internet services.

And odd as it may seem, the barren desert land surrounding the
Columbia along the Oregon-Washington border - at the intersection of
cheap electricity and readily accessible data networking - is the
backdrop for a multibillion-dollar face-off among Google, Microsoft
and Yahoo that will determine dominance in the online world in the
years ahead.

Microsoft and Yahoo have announced that they are building big data
centers upstream in Wenatchee and Quincy, Wash., 130 miles to the
north. But it is a race in which they are playing catch-up. Google
remains far ahead in the global data-center race, and the scale of its
complex here is evidence of its extraordinary ambition.

Even before the Oregon center comes online, Google has lashed together
a global network of computers -- known in the industry as the
Googleplex -- that is a singular achievement. "Google has constructed
the biggest computer in the world, and it's a hidden asset," said
Danny Hillis, a supercomputing pioneer and a founder of Applied Minds,
a technology consulting firm, referring to the Googleplex.

The design and even the nature of the Google center in this industrial
and agricultural outpost 80 miles east of Portland has been a closely
guarded corporate secret. "Companies are historically sensitive about
where their operational infrastructure is," acknowledged Urs Holzle,
Google's senior vice president for operations.

Behind the curtain of secrecy, the two buildings here -- and a third
that Google has a permit to build -- will probably house tens of
thousands of inexpensive processors and disks, held together with
Velcro tape in a Google practice that makes for easy swapping of
components. The cooling plants are essential because of the searing
heat produced by so much computing power.

The complex will tap into the region's large surplus of fiber optic
networking, a legacy of the dot-com boom.

The fact that Google is behind the data center, referred to locally as
Project 02, has been reported in the local press. But many officials
in The Dalles, including the city attorney and the city manager, said
they could not comment on the project because they signed
confidentiality agreements with Google last year.

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