The Internet: It Really Is a Series of Tubes!

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 17 2012 8:02 PM

The Internet: It Really Is a Series of Tubes!

Google data center in The Dalles
These colorful pipes are responsible for carrying water in and out of Google's Oregon data center. The blue pipes supply cold water and the red pipes return the warm water back to be cooled.

Google/Connie Zhou

Google has been photographing and mapping all kinds of cool stuff lately, from Antarctic penguins to the Great Barrier Reef. Today, it released a video, Street View maps, and a series of images by photographer Connie Zhou that offer a rare glimpse inside its data centers. These vast warehouses house the servers and fiber optic cables that process your search queries, store your Gmail messages, and stream your YouTube videos. The company is typically pretty close-lipped about them, but it recently opened the door to its Lenoir, N.C. facility for Wired's Steven Levy and published a multimedia gallery online on its own site. Google explained:

When you're on a Google website (like right now), you're accessing one of the most powerful server networks in the known Universe. But what does that actually look like? Here's your chance to see inside what we're calling the physical Internet.
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Don't worry about security, though: The servers still have a storm trooper guarding them.

Here are the data centers in Street View. And below are a few of Zhou's photos, along with Google's YouTube video about the project. The full gallery is here.

Server racks
Each server rack has four switches, connected by a different colored cable.

Google/Connie Zhou

Steam rises above the cooling towers in The Dalles data center in Oregon
Steam rises above the cooling towers in The Dalles data center in Oregon.

Google/Connie Zhou

Google data center behind server aisle
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

(Hat tip to Colossal for the headline.)

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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