For more than a decade Google has invented much of the computer hardware it uses to provide the world with its services, ranging from search to Google Apps.
Historically, Google has treated its homegrown hardware as a trade secret, unwilling to discuss it.
But this week, Google took a big step and started talking more openly, particularly about the networking tech it’s invented.
Two things caused Google to change its mind:
One is that its rival down the road, Facebook, has not only been talking about its own technology, but created an open source hardware foundation to give those designs away to anyone for free. The Open Compute Project allows anyone to use those designs, modify them, and share improvements that Facebook can use in turn. Contract manufacturers are standing by to build the hardware.
In four years, OCP has become a phenom extending far beyond Facebook. Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, and even Apple are now part of the project, as are many others, and the project is spawning its own family of startups. Meanwhile, Facebook is getting a lot of credit for some revolutionary bits of networking hardware it invented.
Google is looking at Facebook and thinking: We were inventing our own hardware back when Zuck was still at Harvard!
It’s hard on hardware engineers when they have got to keep mum and can’t talk about their best ideas and inventions.
Google isn’t going quite so far as to create an open source foundation, but it has a second, more valuable business reason for ending its secrecy.
Google sees cloud computing as its next huge business, much like ecommerce giant Amazon built its profitable $US6 billion cloud business by letting other businesses rent space on its huge, state-of-the-art technology infrastructure.
To convince companies that Google’s cloud is better, Google is talking about the big new customers its landing (it announced HTC was a customer on Tuesday) and talking about its hardware.
For instance, Google created something called the “Jupiter network” which can blast data around at mind-boggling speeds: 1 Petabit/sec.
As Amin Vahdat, a Google fellow and the guy in charge of the technical networking team, writes in a blog post: the network is fast “enough for 100,000 servers to exchange information at 10Gb/s each, enough to read the entire scanned contents of the Library of Congress in less than 1/10th of a second.”
Vahdat is talking in depth about the network at the Open Network Summit, being held Wednesday in Santa Clara.
By the way, Microsoft’s Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft’s cloud, Azure, will also be speaking.
This is the picture Vahdat shared of Jupiter:
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