Google update from June 2007

Search giant expands data center footprint in Oklahoma, Hawkeye State could be next

June 5, 2007

4 Min Read
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Google, which announced plans to build a major data center in Oklahoma this week, appears to be eyeing a location in Council Bluffs, Iowa, for another of its growing array of technology sites. (See Google Groans Under Data Strain and Google's Space Oddity.)

The notoriously secretive search giant gave a peek into its data center strategy earlier this week when it unveiled plans for a $600 million data center in Pryor, Okla., about 30 miles outside Tulsa. (See Google Clicks Oklahoma.)

Speculation has been mounting about the location of Google's next data center, following the vendor's recent decisions to extend its real estate footprint into North and South Carolina and Saint Ghislain in Belgium.

At this stage, there is still uncertainty about the exact number of Google data centers dotted around the world, with some "Google-watchers" citing 10,000 servers spread across 13 sites, and others highlighting the service provider's presence in 15 U.S. states. (See Tracking Google's IT Booty and Gettin Googly.)

No announcement has been made about Google's plans in Iowa, and the firm did not respond to Byte and Switch's inquiries today, although there are strong signs that the Hawkeye State is next on the search giant's hitlist.The Iowa Senate recently approved tax incentives aimed at persuading an unnamed company to move to a site in Council Bluffs. Tellingly, the bill describes another $600 million center employing 200 people, and local senator Bill Dotzler (D) reportedly named Google when calling for passage of the measure.

The City of Council Bluffs is also dangling a carrot in the form of property tax rebates, although city attorney Dick Wade would not confirm Google's involvement when Byte and Switch contacted him earlier today.

"The project that we're working on is still moving forward -- I am not going to speculate about who the ultimate developer is," he said, although the official did confirm that the town's rebates were linked to the bill approved in the state senate.

Recent data center projects from Google have typically been driven by power considerations, such as the firm's decision to build a facility on the banks of the Columbia river in Oregon, an abundant source of hydroelectric energy. (See Users Talk Power Pains.)

The potential site in Council Bluffs is close to several electrical grids from the nearby Mid-American Energy plant and also has access to good fiber optic links thanks to the site of a nearby airbase, according to the Omaha World-Herald.Power was a major consideration in Google's decision to build a data center in Oklahoma, according to Sanders Mitchell, administrator for the MidAmerica Industrial Park (MAIP) where the 800-acre facility will be located. "They compared our power costs to what they are paying in Oregon [and] they indicated that it was close to the same," he said.

The industrial park claims to be able to shave between 20 and 70 percent off its residents' utilities bills, thanks largely to its relationship with the nearby Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA). "It's a public power company and we're sitting right here in the shadow of the stacks of the power plant," said Mitchell.

GRDA's reliance on hydroelectric power and coal, as opposed to natural gas, as well as its status as a public power firm, have resulted in low power costs, according to Mitchell.

Precise details about Google's technology infrastructure remain hard to come by, although the firm recently revealed how it built a repository called BigTable to store server and drive performance data. (See Google.)

BigTable is built on top of the Google File System (GFS), which is essentially the firm's storage backbone and consists of thousands of inexpensive commodity storage devices clustered to share large, multi-Gbyte files. (See Storage Gets Scattered.)Google is already hiring a number of staff in the Oklahoma area, including a datacenter facilities manager and a hardware operations manager with experience in Unix and Linux systems administration. An ad for a project manager's position warns that the successful candidate will be spending up to 50 percent of their time on the road, hinting that Google is keen to share expertise between its myriad data centers.

Though Google does not reveal salary levels on its Website, MAIP's Mitchell told Byte and Switch that the new data center is a "shot in the arm" for local IT professionals. "These are going to be high-paying jobs," he says, adding that Google's average salary is likely to be in the $50,000 range, $20,000 more than the salary typically paid to local IT workers.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

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