Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Google's not-so-very-secret weapon

Google's not-so-very-secret weapon - Technology - International Herald Tribune: "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 as big as two football fields, with twin cooling towers protruding four stories into the sky.

The towers, looming like an information-age nuclear plant, mark the site of what may soon be one of the world's most powerful supercomputers, helping to supply the ever-greater horsepower needed to process billions of search queries a day and a growing repertory of other Internet services.

Microsoft and Yahoo have announced they are building giant data centers upstream in Washington State, 130 miles to the north. But Google is doing something radically different here. The very need for two cooling towers, each connected to a football field-sized data center, is evidence of its extraordinary ambition.

As imposing as Google's new Oregon data center is, when it opens it will only a piece of a worldwide computing system known as the Googleplex, which is tied together by strands of fiber optic cables. A similar computing center has recently been completed in Atlanta.

Microsoft stunned analysts last quarter when it announced that it would spend an unanticipated $2 billion next year, much of it in an effort to catch up with Google. Google said its own capital expenditures would run to at least $1.5 billion.

In March of 2001, when the company was serving about 70 million Web page views daily, it had 8,000 computers, according to a Microsoft researcher who was given a detailed tour of one of the company's Silicon Valley computing centers. By 2003 the number had grown to 100,000.

Today even the closest Google watchers have lost precise count of how big the system is. The best guess is that Google now has more than 450,000 servers spread in at least 25 locations around the world. The company has major operations in Ireland, and is building significant facilities in China and Russia. Connecting these centers is a high- capacity data network that the company has assembled over the past few years.

Microsoft's Internet computing effort is currently based on 200,000 servers and the company expects that number to grow to 800,000 by 2011 under its most aggressive forecast, according to a company document."

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