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12/06/2005
  Google's Global Super-structure

Cringely breaks the silence on the rumors of a major Google innovation - worldwide datacenters in a box (actually a shipping container).

For the past year, Google has been secretly installing shipping containers full of Google CPU racks around the world. Cringely seems to think they are just starting, but I think they've been at it a while.

Google has several logistical problems which they solve ingeniously. They can't just go to the middle of Poland as Google and buy up the output of a small power station. No - they must secretly operate so the locals won't know its Google. They get the rights to the power they need to run and cool 4,000 CPUs in a box, without paying through the nose. They are doing this all over the world.

Memory is a similar problem for Google. They buy so much of it, that they need to launder their purchases so not to affect the market price. They need a "beard" to do the orders for them. Otherwise, they'd affect the prices, and pay too much. Just like the big institutions on Wall St. trading stocks. There is no liquidnet yet for Google to buy memory and power from, however.

Where does this lead? Simple way to put it: Skynet. (that's a shorthand analogy - I don't think the system is likely to decide to eliminate humanity...) It will be a system that delivers worldwide, incredibly powerful computing and bandwidth and is impossible to take down.

Cringely makes a nice analogy to Wal-Mart's real-estate strategy and an 'parallel internet' and I think that's true, but it's not emphatic enough. No one else will have the ability to deliver computing power like Google. No one besides Google is developing the OS to run such an infrastructure either.

In the follow-up article, he gets into the flow of what could be, envisioning a consumer box connecting to the Google skynet.

As a result, Google becomes overnight a major phone company, a major video entertainment provider, a major player in home automation and even medical telemetry.

Major is an understatement, since Google will probably plant several hundred of these boxes worldwide, and enable new markets for these services across the globe. Cringely sums up nicely:

Microsoft can't compete. Yahoo probably can't compete. Sun and IBM are like remora, along for the ride. And what does it all cost, maybe $1 billion? [Cringely later revises his estimate to $3B] That's less than Microsoft spends on legal settlements each year.
Game over.

What really intrigues me, beyond the incredible 5-year advantage this will give to Google, is how at a company with 5,000 smart people, a very small group creates and executes this genius-level strategy. There's probably 10 guys who are the brainpower behind this supercomputing platform.

So while the public side of Google flounders around and creates barely passable beta me-too products like Base, Talk, Reader etc., don't ever think that Google is running out of mojo. Bubble or not, Google has the chops to pull this off, and become the most important business in the world for at least 10 years. Is that worth $1000 / share?

 


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