Google opens internet window
Google data centre in Douglas Country. Picture: AP/Google

Google has revealed "where the internet lives" for the first time.

The unprecedented peek gives users a view of Google's data centres, with a virtual visit of its server farms around the world from the United States to Finland.

"We literally get dozens if not hundreds of requests for data center tours" from journalists, technologists and others, said Joe Kava, senior director of Google data centers. "We can't do that. The security and privacy of our users data is our foremost concern. But since we can't accommodate the public coming inside we wanted to bring the inside out to the public."

Mr Kava said Google has nine operational data centers with more under construction in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Chile.

The data centres represent Google's nerve centre, although none are located near the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

As Google blossomed from its roots in a Silicon Valley garage, company co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin worked with other engineers to develop a system to connect low-cost computer servers in a way that would help them realize their ambition to provide a digital roadmap to all of the world's information.

Initially, Google just wanted enough computing power to index all the websites on the Internet and deliver quick responses to search requests. As Google's tentacles extended into other markets, the company had to keep adding more computers to store videos, photos, email and information about their users' preferences.

The insights that Google gathers about the more than 1 billion people that use its services has made the company a frequent target of privacy complaints around the world. The latest missive came Tuesday in Europe, where regulators told Google to revise a 7-month-old change to its privacy policy that enables the company to combine user data collected from its different services.

Google studies Internet search requests and web surfing habits in an effort to gain a better understanding of what people like. The company does this in an effort to show ads of products and services to the people most likely to be interested in buying them. Advertising accounts for virtually all of Google's revenue, which totalled nearly $23 billion through the first half of this year.

Even as it allows anyone with a Web browser to peer into its data centers, Google intends to closely guard physical access to its buildings. The company also remains cagey about how many computers are in its data centers, saying only that they house hundreds of thousands of machines to run Google's services.

Google's need for so many computers has turned the company a major electricity user, although management says it's constantly looking for ways to reduce power consumption to protect the environment and lower its expenses.

The West Australian

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