Engineering process famously catapulted the 14-year-old search giant into its place as one of the world’s most successful, influential, and frighteningly powerful companies.
Here I am, in a huge white building in Lenoir, standing near a reinforced door with a party of Googlers, ready to become that rarest of species: an outsider who has been inside one of the company’s data centers and seen the legendary server floor, referred to simply as “the floor.”
A sign outside the floor dictates that no one can enter without hearing protection, either salmon-colored earplugs that dispensers spit out like trail mix or panda-bear earmuffs like the ones worn by airline ground crews. (The noise is a high-pitched thrum from fans that control airflow.) We grab the plugs. Kava holds his hand up to a security scanner and opens the heavy door. Then we slip into a thunderdome of data …
Google was not only processing millions of queries every week but also stepping up the frequency with which it indexed the web, gathering every bit of online information and putting it into a searchable format. AdWords—the service that invited advertisers to bid for placement alongside search results relevant to their wares—involved computation-heavy processes that were just as demanding as search. Page had also become obsessed with speed, with delivering search results so quickly that it gave the illusion of mind reading, a trick that required even more servers and connections.
And the faster Google delivered results, the more popular it became, creating an even greater burden. Meanwhile, the company was adding other applications, including a mail service that would require instant access to many petabytes of storage. Worse yet, the tech downturn that left many data centers underpopulated in the late ’90s was ending, and Google’s future leasing deals would become much more costly.
Dare to be better ? Ok !