For months, I've been trying to get Google to discuss its data center strategy. My approach was flawed. I could have gotten more information at a Rotary Club luncheon this week in Hickory, N.C.Until recently, Google didn't talk to anyone about the data centers it's building around the world at a cost of about $600 million each, but company officials realized they needed to open up as the locals started asking questions about the tall fences, bulldozers, and dust being kicked up in their communities. So Google now talks strategy with the people directly affected.
As reported by John Dayberry in the Hickory Record, the manager of Google's under-construction data center in Lenoir, N.C., met yesterday with folks at the Hickory Rotary Club. Tom Jacobik told the group of about 100 that Google's data center there could be operational before the year's end or early in 2008. Among the tidbits gleaned: Google plans to employ approximately 200 people at the facility. (That seems to be the rule of thumb for new Google data centers.) Google's getting involved in IT skills education and retraining at local colleges. And Jacobik, one-time director of tactical operations for Oracle, is helping supervise construction of another Google data center in Charleston, S.C.
Last week, Google officials were in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where they addressed the Chamber of Commerce's quarterly meeting. Ken Patchett (he manages Google's data center in The Dalles, Ore.) gave a status report on Google's Council Bluffs facility, answered some questions, and dodged others. As reported by the Des Moines Register, Patchett also had breakfast at Duncan's Café on Main Street. (Check out the picture; I'll take two eggs scrambled, toast, black coffee.)
Patchett gave a "no comment" when a Register reporter asked about the number of servers deployed by Google worldwide. And when local farmer Bruce Barnett asked just what Google planned to do with 1,000 acres the company purchased south of town, he was told that Google was still thinking about that.
Despite Patchett's reticence, more details of Google data center strategy emerged: Google's buying up additional land near its rural data centers. And Google's building data centers amid the corn fields of Iowa, in part, because physical proximity leads to faster search results. In Google's business, milliseconds count.
In July, two editors from The Dalles Chronicle were invited inside Google's sparkling new data center in The Dalles, Ore. Patchett admits to hiring away a talented IT manager from a local business and getting an earful for it, but lays out a long list of community-development efforts. Google joined the local Chamber of Commerce, and it's helping the local library, fire department, and animal shelter.
On the subject of Google's Oregon data center (pictures here), we learn that Google got a 15-year tax break -- only the second of that length in state history -- and that it qualified for that break by promising to pay an average salary that's 150% above the county's average wage, among other investment and employment obligations.
Google's data center strategy comes into clearer focus with each town hall meeting. Charleston, here I come.