Meeting the Wizard: Inside Google's Data Centers

The Photo Blog
Dec. 5 2012 9:30 AM

Meeting the Wizard: Inside Google's Data Centers

A glimpse inside Google's data centers.

So it turns out the Internet really is a series of tubes. Last October, for the first time ever, Google posted dozens of rare photographs inside and around its data centers revealing the absurd level of organization, energy, and design that goes into powering some of the largest, most powerful systems plugged into the Internet. My absolute favorite aspect is the color-coordinated design of their infrastructure as it correlates to the Google logo. What wonderful attention to detail. See many more photos of their eight data centers and Street View imagery of their Lenoir, N.C., data center at Where the Internet Lives. All photos by Connie Zhou.

A glimpse inside Google's data centers
Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Council Bluffs data center provides more than 115,000 square feet of space.

Google/Connie Zhou.

A glimpse inside Google's data centers.
Mayes County, Okla. A rare look behind the server aisle. Here, hundreds of fans funnel hot air from the server racks into a cooling unit to be recirculated. The green lights are the server status LEDs reflecting from the front of Google's servers.

Google/Connie Zhou.

A glimpse inside Google's data centers.
Council Bluffs, Iowa. Hovering above the floor, the scale of the data center begins to take shape. Huge steel beams both support the structure and help distribute power.

Google/Connie Zhou.

A glimpse inside Google's data centers.
Douglas County, Ga. Blue LEDs on this row of servers indicates everything is running smoothly. Google uses LEDs because they are energy efficient, long-lasting, and bright.

Google/Connie Zhou.

A glimpse inside Google's data centers.
Insulated pipes like these have a U-bend (called this due to their shape), so they can expand and contract as the fluid temperature inside the pipe changes.

Google/Connie Zhou.

A glimpse into Google's data centers.
Berkeley County, S.C. In case anything should happen to Google's data, they have it all backed up. One of the places they back up information is in the tape library. Robotic arms (visible at the end of the aisle) assist Google in loading and unloading tapes when they need to access them.

Google/Connie Zhou.

A glimpse into Google's data centers.
Mayes County, Okla. Each of Google's server racks has four switches, connected by a different colored cable. They keep these colors the same throughout the data center so they know which one to replace in case of failure.

Google/Connie Zhou.

A glimpse into Google's data centers.
Council Bluffs, Iowa. Plastic curtains hang in a network room inside Google's Council Bluffs data center. Here they serve up cold air through the floor, and the clear plastic barriers help keep the cold air in while keeping hot air out.

Google/Connie Zhou.

Christopher Jobson is founder and editor of the art and design blog Colossal. He lives and works in Chicago and has also contributed to Wired magazine and Designboom.com.

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