Googleplex buildings top & left

On the banks of the windswept Columbia River, Google is working on a secret weapon in its quest to dominate the next generation of Internet computing. But it is hard to keep a secret when it is as big as two football fields, with twin cooling towers protruding four stories into the sky.

Microsoft and Yahoo have announced they are building giant data centers upstream in Washington State, 130 miles to the north. But Google is doing something radically different here. The very need for two cooling towers, each connected to a football field-sized data center, is evidence of its extraordinary ambition.

As imposing as Google’s new Oregon data center is, when it opens it will only be a piece of a worldwide computing system known as the Googleplex, which is tied together by strands of fiber optic cables. A similar computing center has recently been completed in Atlanta.

“Google has constructed the biggest computer in the world, and it’s a hidden asset,” said Danny Hillis, a supercomputing pioneer and the cofounder of Applied Minds, a technology consulting firm, referring to the Googleplex.

The design and even the nature of the Google center in this industrial and agricultural outpost 80 miles, or 130 kilometers, east of Portland, Oregon, has been a closely guarded corporate secret. Many local officials in The Dalles, including the city attorney and the city manager, said they could not comment on the Google data center project, referred to locally as Project 02, because they signed confidentiality agreements with the company last year.

“No one says the ‘G’ word,” said Diane Sherwood, who, as executive director of the Port of Klickitat, Washington, directly across the river from The Dalles, is not bound by such agreements.

Google is known to the world as a search engine, but in many ways it is foremost an effort to build a network of supercomputers, using the latest academic research, that can process more data, faster and cheaper than its rivals.

The rate at which the Google computing system has grown is as astounding as its size. In March of 2001, when the company was serving about 70 million Web page views daily, it had 8,000 computers, according to a Microsoft researcher who was given a detailed tour of one of the company’s Silicon Valley computing centers. By 2003 the number had grown to 100,000.

Today even the closest Google watchers have lost precise count of how big the system is. The best guess is that Google now has more than 450,000 servers spread in at least 25 locations around the world. The company has major operations in Ireland, and is building significant facilities in China and Russia. Connecting these centers is a high- capacity data network that the company has assembled over the past few years.

In his post, yesterday afternoon, Smartalix asked, “Who do you think will found the first off-planet colony?”

Maybe the answer is the Googleplex?



  1. forrest says:

    That’s crazy…

    If only resources like this could be put into research for things like a cure for diseases like cancer…it would be no sweat and a cure could possibly be found in a matter of months at the earliest.

  2. bubba dvorak/blog says:

    perhaps it will be put to ‘good’ use….we don’t know what is in the heads of the evil twins.

  3. Johnny-Cakes says:

    Yes forrest, let’s stop all things everywhere and throw all that money into curing cancer or other diseases.

    Also, make sure you don’t buy anything you don’t need…just enough to afford a one-room apartment with no electricity, no phone and only have a mattress on the floor and nothing else. Now, no matter how much you make where you work, you need to donate most, if not all, to disease research.

    I mean, if companies like Google need to do that, why not everyone else? Because we all know that the only thing stopping a cure for cancer is there isn’t enough money being thrown at it. As we’ve seen in the past, ALL problems can be cured by throwing money at the problem.

    Yes-sir-re…

  4. Tom says:

    I’d much rather be assimilated by Google than Yahoo or Microsoft.

  5. Syngensmyth says:

    Yep, Mr. Johnny-Cakes, you are right on. And can’t we just all “get along”.

  6. forrest says:

    #3 – Johnny-Cakes

    Wow…I think you took what I wrote out of context. I was not saying that Google or any of the other companies should be donating anything to a cause.

    I merely mentioned what good the sheer processing power this datacenter may have towards other things that may need it.

    I think you may need to relax a bit, as I know throwing money at a problem does not solve it. Sheesh…getting all defensive for…

  7. Johnny-Cakes says:

    I was being serious. Actually throw money at cancer. Take big wads of money…weigh it down in bags and throw some coins in there also…and then lob it at petrie dishes filled with cancer cells. I’m sure it will kill them!

    As you can see, taken this way, throwing money at a problem can solve many things. We can even make “money-bombs” where we can drop huge bags of cash onto our enemies…this way we destroy them AND give them money to rebuild all in one fell swoop!

    I think this plan was also thought up along with the “homosexual chemical attack gas” that was mentioned yesterday. And WOW did I totally drive this conversation away from the actual topic!

  8. rickm says:

    Throwing money at anything isn’t going to fix the problem. The place I work at just received a lot of money in grants. What did they do with it? New furniture and computers for management plus increased travel to conferences, most of which don’t have anything to do with the goal of our agency.

    I think I know what Google is doing…building a machine that will either run Vista or Oblivion smoothly. :)

  9. Milo says:

    A Googleplex is a Google squared!

  10. Gigwave says:

    What’s wrong with Google spending money on a decent product they give away for free? People who try to cure all diseases use it! If Microsoft’s brand makes a better one I’ll use it too, as long as it’s free. All corporations are money grubbing soul destroyers but don’t be putting down one of the very few that give you free stuff!

  11. Retief says:

    The most amazing aspect of this whole secret venture is if you compare the search results obtained with Google and and another search engine such as Yahoo for “Google secret computing complex oregon

  12. Drew says:

    Retief, good find. What I’m amazed at is that Google and Yahoo have different results! Highly unusual considering they are the same a good deal of the time.

  13. John Wofford says:

    1. There are no cooling towers in the picture, they must be under construction or something.
    2. Google is in the process of buying it’s headquarters real estate, a highly structured deal involving sellers, buyers, former tenants (Silicon Graphics, a mortally wounded high end computer maker), bankruptcy courts and even local government.
    3. Once the importance of the computing centers penetrate even the weakest minds then they will become potential terrorist targets.
    4. Go Google!

  14. Mike Voice says:

    There are no cooling towers in the picture, they must be under construction or something

    They aren’t the cooling towers you’d see at a nuclear plant – like Three Mile island or Trojan – but they are on the right-hand side [in the photo] of each of the two larger buildings.

    Google just announced they will be allowing expanded search of Government websites & data – which should make Homeland Securioty and the NSA extemely happy!

  15. Tom Welsh says:

    Actually, when you come to think of it, Google’s server farm is fulfilling an extremely useful purpose for all of us. Just think back to the “bad old days” of ten years ago, or so, when you couldn’t switch on your laptop, and instantly “Google” whatever information you wanted. I think if it were possible to compute the number of person-hours saved, and the results obtained, because Google helped people get information more quickly, you would be astounded. It’s almost like the invention of language: suddenly we can all learn from one another, regardless of where and when.