Google's computer infrastructure is sucking up so much power and casting off so much heat that power consumption and cooling have, of necessity, become an obsession at the company. Massive air-cooling systems rise above two data center buildings, which are so close to The Dalles' dam you can almost hear the water roar. An industrial-strength power grid connects the dam to Google's energy-sucking, heat-spewing Linux servers.
After getting approval in early 2005 from The Dalles' port commissioners to buy the 30-acre site for $1.87 million, Google was somewhat secretive about its plans. Even today, there's no sign out front, though any local resident can point out the facility, which is impossible to miss anyway. Google's neighbors in the area: an animal shelter on one side, asphalt company on the other, and a correctional facility down the road. There's also 4.5 acres for sale right next door. Don't be surprised to see a Google partner or tech company grab it.
More recently, Google officials have begun to open up to the community. Two editors from The Dalles Chronicle recently were invited to visit the facility. According to the Chronicle, Google's altruism includes providing IT help desk support to the local fire department and library, and it's working with local firms to explore the feasibility of a new 911 call center.
Based on tidbits of information released by Google, it looks like the company spends about $600 million to build a major data center, requiring a staff of 100 to 200 to operate. In The Dalles, the investment and new jobs have been a boost to the local economy, reflected in rising home values. Google's leaving its options open for expansion: The company reportedly has purchase options and first rights of refusal on several other land parcels in the area.