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Google is doing something today that it has never done before, allowing the public to go behind the scenes at its various data centers. They are the same data centers Greenpeace recently praised for its “comprehensive energy reduction plan.” It is also the machine behind the 20 billion web pages indexed per day, 3 billion daily searches, and free mail to 425 million Gmail users. Apart from a few journalists who actually received tours of the data center, the rest of us will be limited to a new website Google has just dubbed “Where the Internet Lives”  (above we get an in-depth video tour from CBS News).

The site includes a collection of photos (some of which are above) from Connie Zhou, for each of Google’s data centers including: Berkley County (SC), Council Bluffs (Iowa), The Dalles (Oregon), Douglas County (Georgia), Hamina (Finland), Lenoir (North Carolina), Mayes County (Oklahoma), and St. Ghislain (Belgium). The site also contains photos and captions for Google employees working in the various data centers. You can even walk right in the front door of the Lenoir, NC data center using StreetView for a virtual tour:

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If you want to get the first hand experience of what it’s like actually walking through the data centres, Wired was lucky enough to get a tour of the Lenoir building and has a great piece on the experience. Here’s an excerpt:

Here I am, in a huge white building in Lenoir, standing near a reinforced door with a party of Googlers, ready to become that rarest of species: an outsider who has been inside one of the company’s data centers and seen the legendary server floor, referred to simply as “the floor.” … During my interviews with Googlers, the idea of hot aisles and cold aisles has been an abstraction, but on the floor everything becomes clear. The cold aisle refers to the general room temperature—which Kava confirms is 77 degrees. The hot aisle is the narrow space between the backsides of two rows of servers, tightly enclosed by sheet metal on the ends. A nest of copper coils absorbs the heat. Above are huge fans, which sound like jet engines jacked through Marshall amps.

The huge fans sound like jet engines jacked through Marshall amps.

We walk between the server rows. All the cables and plugs are in front, so no one has to crack open the sheet metal and venture into the hot aisle, thereby becoming barbecue meat. (When someone does have to head back there, the servers are shut down.) Every server has a sticker with a code that identifies its exact address, useful if something goes wrong. The servers have thick black batteries alongside. Everything is uniform and in place—nothing like the spaghetti tangles of Google’s long-ago Exodus era.

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