Google uncloaks the hidden world of its data centers

Google/Connie Zhou

The days of the secret data center are over. Google — which has spent years trying to keep the size, architecture and energy consumption of its data centers a secret — has kicked off an all-out PR campaign showing off photos, giving interviews, and even creating a Google Street View for some of its data centers around the world.

In particular Google is publishing photos, and gave an exclusive tour to Wired of its data center in Lenoir, North Carolina. This is the data center I visited on my data center road trip this summer, and which I failed to penetrate — and yes, I am extremely jealous. Wired’s Steven Levy describes the gates surrounding the Lenoir data center as “evoking the Korean DMZ.”

The trend of greater transparency around data centers has been happening for awhile with the largest Internet companies. Facebook launched its Open Compute Project last year, bringing an unprecedented level of openness to the way it designed its servers, its server rooms and its cooling systems. I toured Facebook’s data center in Oregon a few months ago.

The data center industry needs to embrace this type of transparency to help combat the potentially negative reaction that’s sometimes emerged around the secretive data centers being built throughout the world. The New York Time’s recent series on data centers is one indication that through years of secrecy, the industry has created this type of media backlash.

On the other hand companies like Google still need to protect their customers’ data, which is housed in these massive data centers. So no, don’t expect to be able to go visit a Google data center any time soon. Google is only showing off images from eight of its data centers, and will no doubt be keeping visits to its data centers limited.

Here is my series on North Carolina’s mega data center cluster:

This was how far I got into Google’s Lenoir facility:

Google’s data center in Lenoir

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