Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

15 years on, Googlers reminisce about first data center

The tiny space housed 30 PCs and was down the hall from the much larger Altavista

Article comments

Google runs its services from some of the biggest, most sophisticated data centers on the planet, but it wasn't always that way. Some of its top engineers have been reminiscing this week about the early days, when Google operated from a tiny server room down the hall from Altavista, and when Larry Page used to roll up his sleeves and fix its servers with a twist tie.

Urs Hölzle, Google's head of technical infrastructure, started the discussion on his Google+ page. His first visit to a data center was 15 years ago, he wrote, when Page gave him a tour of Google's server room in a shared space at the Exodus data center in Santa Clara, California.

It was a tiny space, or "cage," 7 feet by 4 feet, with enough room for about 30 PCs.

"This particular building was one of the first collocation facilities in Silicon Valley," he wrote. "Our direct neighbor was eBay, a bit further away was a giant cage housing DEC/Altavista, and our next expansion cage was directly adjacent to Inktomi. The building has long since been shut down. "

Hölzle posted a copy of Google's order form with Exodus, dated September 1998, including the prices it paid. A megabit of bandwidth cost US$1,200 per month and was enough for about a million queries per day, Hölzle said.

Google wheeled and dealed to keep its costs down. Page convinced the Exodus salesperson to provide some of Google's bandwidth for "cheap" because it was for incoming traffic, while most of the data center's other traffic was outbound, Hölzle wrote.

Co-founder Sergey Brin chimed in on the post, showing how Google saved money by jerry-rigging its own hardware.

"We improvised our own external cases for the main storage drives, including our own improvised ribbon cable to connect 7 drives at a time (we were very cheap!) per machine," he wrote.

Ribbon cables are normally used inside computers because they're fragile, and Google's were damaged when it moved the computers into its cage. "So late that night, desperate to get the machines up and running, Larry did a little miracle surgery to the cable with a twist tie," Brin wrote. "Incredibly it worked!ÿ"

Hölzle's post was first reported by Datacenter Knowledge.

They're small details but the type that become the stuff of folklore in Silicon Valley. At a conference last week, Facebook's Jay Parikh described how, in the social network's early days, someone had to rush out to buy electric fans from Walgreens to keep its servers from overheating.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com



Share:

More from Techworld

More relevant IT news

Comments



Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *