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Google, Microsoft Escalate Data Center Battle 190

Posted by Zonk
from the when-megacorps-fight dept.
miller60 writes "The race by Microsoft and Google to build next-generation data centers is intensifying. On Thursday Microsoft announced a $550 million San Antonio project, only to have Google confirm plans for a $600 million site in North Carolina. It appears Google may just be getting started, as it is apparently planning two more enormous data centers in South Carolina, which may cost another $950 million. These 'Death Star' data centers are emerging as a key assets in the competitive struggle between Microsoft and Google, which have both scaled up their spending (as previously discussed on Slashdot). Some pundits, like PBS' Robert X. Cringley, say the scope and cost of these projects reflect the immense scale of Google's ambitions."
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Google, Microsoft Escalate Data Center Battle

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  • by gQuigs (913879) on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:32AM (#17708390) Homepage
    Microsoft's is to run Vista. While Google's is to save the world.
    • by DJCacophony (832334) <v0dka@myg0[ ]om ['t.c' in gap]> on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:42AM (#17708434) Homepage
      I knew Vista's hardware requirements were high, but a $550,000,000 data center?
  • by bigberk (547360) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:35AM (#17708408)
    The aim for both of these giants is to shift people towards non-local computing, that is software and applications that run remotely rather than on someone's own computer.

    Early signs of this beyond the obvious google applications that require web access, are aggressive attempts by Microsoft to "activate" everything online. You are going to increasingly need network connections to run standard applications.

    I don't like that myself, since it hurts reliability and autonomy in computing. From a marketing perspective, there are huge benefits to centralized computing of course. Take gmail for instance, which lets google mine your private communications to gain insight into products and services which might interest you.
    • by Speed Pour (1051122) on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:50AM (#17708460)

      The aim for both of these giants is to shift people towards non-local computing,
      I thought the aim was to prove which one had the larger penis?

      I don't like that myself, since it hurts reliability and autonomy in computing. From a marketing perspective, there are huge benefits to centralized computing of course. Take gmail for instance, which lets google mine your private communications to gain insight into products and services which might interest you.
      On a serious note. While I don't care all that much if google uses an automated method to push advertising on me, I am more bothered by the fact that it's a single target that retains tons of information. A hacker can break into one person's home computer and get their info, or they can break into a google server and have 2 million people. Same reason that hackers target windows/ie over linux/firefox, they can accomplish/demolish a larger audience.
    • by solitu (1045848) on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:52AM (#17708478)
      Microsoft desperately needs new datacenters because their search index size is in need of an increased capacity. Google with its 100000++ computers is able to record every single click-through, record your chats, store your email for posterity (even after you delete it), store every single search query for several years, record your online transactions etc. not only on its own sites but other sites like slashdot for example. This has helped improve their search result and provide targetted ads among other things. Microsoft's search now algorithmcally matches Google. It now does a great job for most queries, but for some esotoric queries its small index size is very apparent.
    • by mcrbids (148650) on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:57AM (#17708494) Journal
      Early signs of this beyond the obvious google applications that require web access, are aggressive attempts by Microsoft to "activate" everything online. You are going to increasingly need network connections to run standard applications.

      I don't like that myself, since it hurts reliability and autonomy in computing.


      If all else is equal, a centralized approach is less reliable than a distributed approach.

      But seldom is all else equal.

      A distributed approach to software and information systems often has catastrophic failure as part of the mix. A well-designed central approach, with built-in redundancy and a qualified backup scheme can usually outperform the poorly administered "edge" systems run by end users.

      And, in this space, the economies of scale rapidly factor in, making a better experience cheaper, as well. Sorry you don't trust the hosting providers, but it isn't always that way...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        A well-designed central approach, with built-in redundancy and a qualified backup scheme can usually outperform the poorly administered "edge" systems run by end users.

        True, but a) you have no idea of knowing just how resilient their systems are, or how reliable their backup scheme is... until it fails, of course; b) online apps require an internet connection; and c) trust.

        The need for an internet link to the central site is still a pretty significant failure point, especially if we're talking "end user

      • by repvik (96666)
        A distributed approach to software and information systems often has catastrophic failure as part of the mix. A well-designed central approach, with built-in redundancy and a qualified backup scheme can usually outperform the poorly administered "edge" systems run by end users.

        A well-designed central approach helps zip if your local ISP's upstream fiber has been dug up. A centralized approach is probably more reliable retention-wise, but access-wise it's far worse. There's loads of POF along the way from yo
    • by zCyl (14362) on Monday January 22, 2007 @04:12AM (#17708540)
      I don't like that myself, since it hurts reliability and autonomy in computing.

      Don't worry, you can trust skynet. What could go wrong?
    • by Travoltus (110240) on Monday January 22, 2007 @04:15AM (#17708552) Journal
      If it isn't the hackers trying to break into your system, it's Google's marketing partners getting exclusive access to your communications.

      Forget that, I'd rather have my own mail server at home, not to mention my own apps at home. I don't even trust ISP's.

      This "offsite word processing" crap is for chumps - anyone with sensitive data would be utter idiots to go there.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by zrenneh (949977)
        This "offsite word processing" crap is for chumps - anyone with sensitive data would be utter idiots to go there.
        What about the people with non-sensitive data who want to do their word processing anywhere?
        The collaboration features are also pretty cool...although for cool collaboration features check out SubEthaEdit [codingmonkeys.de]
      • It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that you don't put financial data on Google. However, for keeping track of gas mileage or working on a document with someone else, there's not much that can beat it.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "The aim for both of these giants is to shift people towards non-local computing, that is software and applications that run remotely rather than on someone's own computer."

      ASP [wikipedia.org]

      "Early signs of this beyond the obvious google applications that require web access, are aggressive attempts by Microsoft to "activate" everything online. You are going to increasingly need network connections to run standard applications."

      Piracy [wikipedia.org]

      "I don't like that myself, since it hurts reliability and autonomy in computing. "

      Time-sha [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by g-doo (714869)

      From a marketing perspective, there are huge benefits to centralized computing of course. Take gmail for instance, which lets google mine your private communications to gain insight into products and services which might interest you.
      Perhaps, but it also gives us greater mobility in the sense that we can move from computer to computer anywhere in the world, and continue seamlessly where we left off.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 1u3hr (530656)
        Perhaps, but it also gives us greater mobility in the sense that we can move from computer to computer anywhere in the world, and continue seamlessly where we left off.

        Who actually needs to work like that? Most people go to work, sit at the same desk and use the same keyboard on the same PC every day. You have your chair at the right height, a mouse that fits your hand, a cushion that fits your back, your calendar on the wall, your paper files in a cabinet. For the small percentage of people who do wande

        • by mgblst (80109)
          Agreed, most of the time it is like that. But it is great, for those few weeks of the year, to be able to access your email anywhere. I have a google account, and a Microsoft outlook (mandated by work), but will always use the google account because of its greater flexibility. It is great to log on, when I am travelling, from airports and strange cities, and have everybodies address at my fingertips. Don't discount this.
        • Webmail isn't particularly new, but the same benefits that applied back in the day, apply now. If I hadn't had access to Gmail last year when I travelled to New Zealand with my girlfriend I wouldn't have been able to respond to the offer for the job I'm now in. Nor would I have been able to use GDrive as a temporary store for all our photographs, thereby saving our skin when a dodgy digital -> CD service left us with a weeks worth of photos corrupted.

          For those people who only ever work/access e-mail fr
          • by 1u3hr (530656)
            . If I hadn't had access to Gmail last year...

            Fine. Email is one thing; I've accessed my email in Pokhara, Nepal. But I have no desire or need to set up a virtual workstation away from my office. If I actually did want to work on the move, I'd use a laptop, or notebook PC. But as I said, there's more to a working environment than a computer screen. Google can't make me a cup of coffee, sharpen my pencil, etc.

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      I don't like that myself, since it hurts reliability and autonomy in computing. From a marketing perspective, there are huge benefits to centralized computing of course. Take gmail for instance, which lets google mine your private communications to gain insight into products and services which might interest you.

      Wow, I wonder where the government would stand on this.

      On one hand, having all computing dependent on a few centralized data servers, makes them great terrorist targets. It would be in the best inte

    • by mochan_s (536939)

      The aim for both of these giants is to shift people towards non-local computing, that is software and applications that run remotely rather than on someone's own computer.

      I don't think the aim is to run Word equivalent on their server. They are probably eyeing applications that use multi-terabyte data on thousands of nodes to run ( e.g. a google search which is only possible with large data centers.) Keyword matching and ranking for web-search is probably only the tip of the iceberg on what could be done

    • The aim for both of these giants is to shift people towards non-local computing...

      I don't like that myself, since it hurts reliability and autonomy in computing.

      I'm of two minds about the autonomy concern, but after 27 years of working with personal computers, I'm convinced that Google offers storage and retrieval capabilities that are more reliable than anything I could put together at home. More reliable, in fact, than any system a small business would be willing to budget for.

      As to autonomy, I'm

  • by caitsith01 (606117) on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:47AM (#17708452) Journal
    For the time being, it's surely a good thing if two extremely wealthy companies pour resources into creating ultra-high capacity facilities such as these, particularly as Google's business model is based around providing services which are nominally 'free' (in terms of dollars) and as such these resources are in a sense an investment in our common infrastructure. If we're really lucky Google and Microsoft will hugely over-invest, and one day find themselves with a large overcapacity which third parties might be able to use for their own work.

    However, longer term things may not be so appealing. Both companies have a nasty habit of collecting and storing as much personal data as possible (Google in particular), and both are pushing towards 'lock out' where you are prevented from using your own computer without their participation via connection to their networks. And of course the software industry has a history of producing only one winner in the end, meaning the benefits of this kind of head-to-head competition are unlikely to last...
    • by rumith (983060) on Monday January 22, 2007 @04:05AM (#17708522)

      From my point of view, there'll be no single winner, but technology will revert once again, and the term 'computer' will mean what it meant in the 60s and the 70s. Provided enough bandwidth, stability and solutions like roof-top server rooms - Google [or Microsoft, although it's hard for me to believe it] has good chances to build such a network with powerful data centers and relatively dumb clients. Again, the task is not easy, and there is 1001 reasons why, but defying laws of physics isn't among them, and the Almighty Buck will surely help solve all of them sooner or later.

      If we're really lucky Google and Microsoft will hugely over-invest

      Why? Google's desperately trying to diversify its income sources, why don't you suppose that they'll offer hosting services because they plan to?

    • both are pushing towards 'lock out' where you are prevented from using your own computer without their participation via connection to their networks


      How does Google stop me from using my computer without their network?

  • and i quote (Score:5, Funny)

    by macadamia_harold (947445) on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:50AM (#17708462) Homepage
    These 'Death Star' data centers are emerging as a key assets in the competitive struggle between Microsoft and Google

    That's no zune...
    • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Monday January 22, 2007 @04:35AM (#17708604)
      A construction of a real Death Star data center would require a lot more manpower than Google or Microsoft has to offer. I bet there are independent contractors working all over these things: plumbers, carpenters, electricians, DBAs, MBAs, roofers, etc. In order to get one built quickly and quietly they'd have to hire anybody who could do the job. Do you think the average Google employee knows how to install a toilet main? All he knows is JavaScript and Knuth.

      All these independent contractors in each Death Star data center are getting involved in a war between Microsoft and Google- a war they had nothing to do with.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        I'm an engineer, and I can tell you that an engineer's politics come heavily into play when choosing jobs. Just three months ago I was offered a job building a huge data center in the valley, in a vast facility. And then I learned how screwed up the company's financials were. The money was right, but the risk was too big. So I passed the job onto a friend of mine.

        They just laid his ass off and shut down the entire outfit, but they still have to run the air conditioning because of a few third party servers l


        • This needs a rewrite:

          I'm an engineer, and I can tell you that an engineer's politics come heavily into play when choosing jobs. Just three months ago I was offered a job working at one of the big information companies data centers, in a vast facility. And then I learned how screwed up the company's plans were. The money was right, but the risk was too big. So I passed the job onto a friend of mine.

          While writing a C# script for some part of thier web portal my friend was hit by a flying chair, it was a leathal blow, and he died instantly. I'm still employed because I recognized the risks involved in working in a Death Star. Anyone working in a Death Star data center for Google or Microsoft is aware of the risks involved in that war. Whatever happens to them is their own fault.
        • by Kelbear (870538)
          Death Star datacenters can be a dangerous place to work.

          It's only a matter of time before some asshole jedi comes along and blows you away along with millions of innocent contract workers.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by meme lies (1050572)
        Do you think the average Google employee knows how to install a toilet main?

        I know how they could find out fast:

        http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=installing+a+ toilet+main&btnG=Google+Search [google.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by andytrevino (943397)

      With this many Death Stars around, the Rebellion doesn't stand a chance! **evil cackle**

  • Time to invest (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Technician (215283) on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:53AM (#17708480)
    On Thursday Microsoft announced a $550 million San Antonio project, only to have Google confirm plans for a $600 million site in North Carolina.

    It looks like it's time to invest in IBM, Red Hat, Maxtor, and Intel. They may sell a lot of hardware and software.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arivanov (12034)
      Wrong. These are all relatively high valued stocks so your ROI will be minimal.

      If you invest based on 3rd party development you need to invest into something that is currently valued low and will grow by a large factor based on the development, taking any relevant risk in the process.

      It is time to invest into one of the nearly bankrupt transatlantic line companies. Google quite obviously has decided to limit their expansion in EU and build on the other side of the fat cable instead. Not a bad idea after all
      • easier to buy local politicians at the cost of the latency of the transatlantic lines.

        Whatever gave you the idea that Euro policies are less difficult to buy? Atleast in the USA you buy politicians with campaign contributions and with disclosure laws you know how much they cost. In EU with all that murky old boy networks, and well entrenched political system, you dont really have to buy the politicians but bureucrats. And they come much cheaper than the politicians.

        • by arivanov (12034)
          You missunderstood my point. We are in "violent agreement". That is exactly what I said.

          In the EU it is much more difficult to buy a large policy package especially if it comes along with tax breaks like those Carolinas currently hand out to anything with "high tech" in the name (Dell was the first to notice this one).

          In addition to this Google (and MSFT for that matter) needs a place which combines a number of factors. It needs to be an economical backwater so it can buy land cheaply and have cheap labour
    • by Calinous (985536)
      I'm not sure Google buys any kind of software - they have moved everything "in house" (they even are optimizing the kernels for the kind of heavy lifting their computers do).
      As for the rest, hard drives and microprocessors will certainly be needed - but as the cost of microprocessors is just a small part of the cost of the computers, and Intel is having vast production capacities, the added microprocessors are just a drop in a ocean. More so for hard drives, and I suppose just the same
      • Google probably will buy hardware but I don't see them going exclusive with one manufacturer when HDs are rather interchangeable. There are differences between the manufacturers but not so much that Google would put all of its storage on one manufacturer.
  • Ecological nightmare (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Duncan3 (10537) on Monday January 22, 2007 @04:34AM (#17708602) Homepage
    So now we know why the sky is always black with pollution in sci-fi movies... we cover the earth with multi-gigawatt eating data centers.

    Since electricity is a continent-wide commodity you can guess whose electric bill will be going up as they buy up all the watts just so they can store every little detail about your life.

    • To produce the aluminum used in one beverage can, about 0.2 kWh of energy is needed. That's roughly the amount used by a server in two hours of operation. Considering that the USA produces more than 100 billion cans/year, and only 40% of those are recycled, how many data centers it would take to equal the pollution generated by the aluminum beverage can business?
    • Ecological dream (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Per Abrahamsen (1397)
      A data center can run close to 100% utility, and can (and will) be optimized for processing power per watt.

      A PC will run way below peak capacity most of the time, and will typically be optimized for all kinds of things, like peak processing power per dollar initial investment. Running cost will rarely be a factor.

      In the best case, the data centers will mean orders of magnitude decrease in power consumption for computing, if people start investing in PC's just powerful enough to run a web browser, and deleg
  • ObStarWars (Score:5, Funny)

    by OldManAndTheC++ (723450) on Monday January 22, 2007 @04:48AM (#17708652)

    These 'Death Star' data centers are emerging as a key assets...

    Better make sure to protect the plans for that data center...one well placed shot in an exhaust vent could take out the whole thing. Not much harder then hitting a womp rat with a T-16, from what I hear...

  • Death Stars (Score:4, Funny)

    by clickclickdrone (964164) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:34AM (#17708802)
    FX: Guard on gate waves hand mysteriously 'This isn't the Data Complex you're looking for'
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:02AM (#17708884)
    With the doomsday clock at 11:55 they decided to code name the sites Ground Zero One, Two and Three. Helpful GPS coordinates can be found at their competitors websites. Google has nice aerial shots of the Microsoft location with coordinates in Russian, Farsi and Korean. Microsoft is offering a special GPS Zune with preloaded coordinates to the Googel sites. Ain't competition grand!
    • by dangitman (862676)

      Microsoft is offering a special GPS Zune with preloaded coordinates to the Googel sites.

      So, Google's completely safe from harm then? This is the only example of 'security through obscurity' that would actually work.

  • Microsoft wants to get as much money as possible from applications and "special features" running of their data centers. The thing is both Google and Microsoft are "jumping too far" in the future with this if they want to tie average consumer to their server side applications. Why ? Most of the people still don't have network connection fast enough to support this kind of Internet applications. Evolution is going this way but it can't happen before large numbers of people get optical cables to their homes.
  • Maybe (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Konster (252488)
    Maybe it's time for MS to give up on the search thing because they have spent mega $$$ and still suck at it. maybe it's time for MS to stop trying to compete with everyone and just focus on what they do well: OS'es and Office Suites, and use war chest money to defend that area like no one else has ever seen, and not waste money on things that aren't their core focus, never will be their core focus and just realize they will suck at it until the end of days until they make such a thing their core focus at th
    • Nope. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rumith (983060)

      maybe it's time for MS to stop trying to compete with everyone and just focus on what they do well: OS'es and Office Suites

      Forget it, as well as most of the other things you describe in you post. Microsoft couldn't do this even if they wanted; they've got shareholders to please. The office software market is oversaturated for a long time now, and only through artificial means is MS still able to extract money from it. They're not merely going to stop growing if they do not expand to new territories - they'll instantly drown, plain and stupid. It's very hard for the old dog to learn new tricks. They cannot possibly accommodate

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hxnwix (652290)
      Suppose that google is going to make the desktop OS and office suite obsolete. This very moment is then Microsoft's last chance - their stock market value and warchest will soon vaporize, along with their opportunity to compete with google.

      And whatever they do, they will *never* be as good at what Google does.
      Remember, many folks say that Microsoft still isn't as good as IBM was.
  • Google is building Colossus and Microsoft is building Guardian.

    We're hosed. Don't buy any real-estate on Crete.

    --
    BMO
    • by mtec (572168)
      The late great D.F. Jones. One of my favorite movies. I wish H-Wood would do the others.

      Great trilogy. Waste a few afternoons and those of you 40ish return to your childhoods for a while.

      Colossus (1966)
      The Fall of Colossus (1974)
      Colossus and the Crab (1977)
  • I called the South Carolina situation about a year ago. SC has cheap land and power plus an OC-192 goes through Columbia to the University of SC(the first USC, sorry Alumnus). I just figured no one would do it because the schools are so bad no one would move there. I wonder what kind of jobs these Data Centers employ.
    • The North Carolina Google jobs are expected to average $48,000 a year in a county where the average is $27,000 a year. That's one reason local officials are willing to offer incentives to Google.
  • Am I the only one who thinks building a data center in North Carolina only invites eventual destruction by hurricane? Granted, Google's applications are globally balanced and distributed, but it seems somewhat high risk.

    Then again, data centers in CA and other west coast locations have the risk of earthquake destruction. Difference is earthquakes seem to occur once every few years to couple of centuries. Hurricanes (especially with global warming) seem to happen annually, with a major one causing east coast
    • by KirkH (148427)
      Look at where Lenoir is located in NC -- far, far from the coast. Hurricanes won't be a problem. Same for Columbia, SC. Now, Goose Creek in SC is fairly close to the coast but the odds of any serious damage is probably minimal, given the distance and building codes, but the facility could face a mandatory evacuation once a decade or so. But the (one) nice thing about hurricanes is that you can see them coming for days in advance and can plan for things like that.
    • by MooseTick (895855)
      "Am I the only one who thinks building a data center in North Carolina only invites eventual destruction by hurricane?"

      Yes. If you look at prior hurricane destruction and damage, nearly always only the first few miles inland see major damage. People 20 miles north of New Orleans were fine after Katrina. Unless Google decides they HAVE to build on the shoreline with a view of the Atlantic, they are 99.999% as safe from hurricaines as Dorothy in Kansas.
  • Incentives to Build (Score:5, Interesting)

    by necro81 (917438) on Monday January 22, 2007 @10:27AM (#17709974) Journal
    Is anyone else a bit weirded out by the massive incentives the local governments have offered. I know this is nothing new, and the locals hope that these will spur further high-tech development in the area, but let's examine these cases:

    San Antonio (Microsoft) [mysanantonio.com]: No property taxes for 10 years. A $5.2 mil grant from the CPS Energy economic development fund to pay for the electrical infrastructure to build the site.

    South Carolina (Google) [valleywag.com]: No property taxes for 30 years (essentially, for the life of the site). The 150-acre site was granted to them, and the state government has granted about $5 mil [yahoo.com], too. Google has been incentivized to the tune of about $100 million.

    Some of the structural construction will undoubtedly be done by locals. The technical work of building the data center (installing servers, wiring everything together) is probably outside of a local construction company's expertise. The real bulk of all those hundreds of millions of dollars goes to purchasing the actual computer equipment, none of which is local. A handful of the most-well-educated locals could be employees, but most employees will be transplanted. In less than 10 years, both sites will probably be obsolete (or, worse, axed as excess capacity). As the article on Google's site notes, the obscene incentives equate to "a $500,000 sweetener for each of the 200 jobs Google will create."

    For half a million dollars, I'm sure the local economy could get more bang for its buck than just one Google employee. What exactly are these local governments getting in return for their obsequiousness and prostration?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dawnzer (981212)
      Just because the City/County may be giving them tax breaks, doesn't mean they won't be paying taxes - and lots of it. For the San Antonio site, the school district stands to collect millions of dollars every year - without the burden of a significant increase in students (the article says there will be only 75 employees).

      It also isn't just structural construction. The land development (roads, site work, drainage, etc.), will be done locally and cost a pretty penny. This is my field and I live in SA, s
  • All I have to say is COOL!

    By Google building these things out in the sticks I might actually be able to work someplace cool but not have to pay crazy cost of living $$$$.

    Now if I could only get up the confidence to endure the google "hazing" interview process.
  • From what I can tell, Google is already way ahead of MS on datacenters. To me, Google has already planned out its whole strategy on data centers. Microsoft seems to be in the "me too" phase right now and haven't thought about the whole picture beyond of building a data center.

    First of all, how is Microsoft going to connect its data center(s)? Google quietly bought obscene amounts of dark fiber capacity. There was rampant speculation as to why Google was doing that and now we know. I haven't heard MS d

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