Saturday, January 20, 2007

Google's big bandwidth acquisitions

Robert Cringely's latest column, "When Being a Verb is Not Enough", looks at the massive bandwidth rights and data centers Google has acquired.
Google controls more network fiber than any other organization. This is not to say that Google OWNS all that fiber, just that they control it through agreements with network operators.

Google is building a LOT of data centers. The company appears to be as attracted to cheap and reliable electric power as it is to population proximity.

Of course this doesn't answer the question why Google needs so much capacity in the first place, but I have a theory on that.
Robert concludes that Google is trying to corner the market on bandwidth:
It is becoming very obvious what will happen over the next two to three years. More and more of us will be downloading movies and television shows over the net and with that our usage patterns will change.

Instead of using 1-3 gigabytes per month ... we'll go to 1-3 gigabytes per DAY ... a huge backbone burden on ISPs. Those ISPs will be faced with the option of increasing their backbone connections by 30X, which would kill all profits, OR they could accept a peering arrangement with the local Google data center.
I doubt this is the reason. It just does not sound Googly to me.

I think the reason is what Google accidentally disclosed back in March 2006. In my post, "In a world with infinite storage, bandwidth, and CPU power", I quoted from slide 19 of a Google Analyst Day presentation:
[Google] is inspired by the idea of "a world with infinite storage, bandwidth, and CPU power."

They say that "the experience should really be instantaneous". They say that they should be able to "house all user files, including: emails, web history, pictures, bookmarks, etc and make it accessible from anywhere (any device, any platform, etc)" which leads to a world where "the online copy of your data will become your Golden Copy and your local-machine copy serves more like a cache"
Maybe I am too idealistic, maybe a little naive, but I cannot see Google excited by Robert's idea of speculating on the value of bandwidth rights.

Trying to build a world of infinite storage, bandwidth, and CPU power, that is Googly. That infrastructure, once built, would be a tool that makes the impossible possible.

It entirely explains the massive data centers and bandwidth acquisitions. And it is entirely Googly.

Update: Robert Cringely writes a follow-up article, "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?".


Anonymous said...

I thought it was not one of his better articles. It seemed to show that Bob still doesn't really understand how peering relationships work between large internet companies. I think he needs talk to some guys that actually deal with this stuff on a regular basis, or attend a few NANOG's.

John K said...

I think your pragmatic view is more accurate, and also believe Google really just needs a lot of space to keep up with its current demands.

My comments here:

However, over time, your view and Cringley's converge fairly easily...

Anonymous said...

Then why not be more open about what they are doing. After all for a company that believes in do no evil the way that they are going about aquiring all this fibre is raising more questions than are being answered.

Anonymous said...

I think it is time to question all this "googly" and "do no evil" nonsense.

Google has made a number of moves over the last 6 months that show their true corp moto is "do no evil...unless Wall Street makes us."

The latest is the anti-competitive efforts to prevent AdSense competitors from gaining traction (last week).

Google is a monopoly (not illegal) that is showing a desire to use that monopoly to grow into other markets and use anti-competitive tactics to protect their monopoly.

Althought we might mock Microsoft's assertion that the browser is part of the OS, any attempt by Google to claim that "ad engine is part of the search engine" would be even more absurd in comparison.

It's time to call a spade a spade. Google is in fact evil and growing more evil by the day. So there is no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt anymore.

burtonator said...

There seems to be a large worry at Google about the 'speed of light problem' where latency between datacenters can't really be solved.

The goal of course would be to duplicate as much functionality between datacenters as possible and to own solid bandwidth to make synchronization easy.....

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is such thing as "not Googly" any more. Remember the days when Google was focusing on search and search only? Remember the days when they were the anti-portal site? At this point everything is Googly.