War for the Web
19 03.12

Google and Co-Location

We had the good fortune of sitting down with Andrew Blum last week for lunch in Brooklyn. Andrew is a journalist for Wired and just finished a book, to be released in May, called Tubes. Tubes is about the physical infrastructure of the Internet. One of the most interesting and telling aspects of the infrastructure of the Internet is that it’s shared at the most important locations.

There are many industries where competitors have to share space, but perhaps none are as extreme as the Internet. The Internet is really a series of private networks, many of whom operate concurrently, but all of whom meet at “peering houses” or co-location facilities. Competitors like Google, Facebook and Apple all share space in these facilities and literally physically connect their routers together with ethernet cable, the same thing that comes out of your modem at home.

This leads to some pretty interesting situations. Google, for example, has taken to turning the lights out in the space that they rent in co-location facilities. Their network engineers head in with mining helmets and make adjustments and perform maintenance by the lights on their headlamps. Why go to all the trouble? To protect proprietary technology from the peering eyes of competitors. These facilities house server technology and network architecture that support the entire Internet, that means that pieces of your data could live in these facilities, hidden in the dark.

Gizmodo has a great article about it with some more details.

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