7 September 2008, 18:16 by mark hoekstra

Ten years of Google

Today, the 7th of September, Google is ten years old. Although there are some questions about the real date, Wikipedia is reporting the 7th of September 1998 as the official date Google was founded. Still, it is to be expected that Google itself will change its logo on September the 27th, although they’ve changed their logo on September the 7th as well in recent years. Ah well, who cares what the exact date is? They’re ten years old just about now, so cheers to that!

I’m not going to look back in detail on ten years of Google, there are already and there will be lots more who do that, next to that, Google themselves keep a good track of their own history.

No, what I’m really interested in, is how they started, from a hardware point-of-view. A while ago, I stumbled upon this picture.

click to enlarge
credit: jurvetson (flickr)

It’s said that that’s Google’s first production server and nowadays it’s at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA, which, by the way, is a former Silicon Graphics’ headquarters, just like Google’s headquarters on 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway in Mountain View, CA.

What you can see is a bunch of Pentium II PC motherboards and CPUs, with what looks like IBM 9GB SCSI disks on top of them, resting on cardboard, which itself is resting on the vertical aligned memory modules.

Here’s the sign that goes with it in the museum:

click to enlarge
credit: Takuya Oikawa (flickr)

With limited funds, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin initially deployed this system of inexpensive, interconnected PCs to process many thousands of search requests per second from Google users. This hardware system reflected the Google search algorithm itself, which is based on tolerating multiple computer failures and optimizing around them.

This production server was one of about thirty such racks in the first Google data center. Even though many of the installed PCs never worked and were difficult to repair, these racks provided Google with its first large-scale computing system and allowed the company to grow quickly and at minimal cost.

But… this is already a couple of steps up the (r)evolution ladder. Luckily, thanks to the Wayback Machine (which, afaik is not housed in a former SGI headquarters, but maybe they should too), we can still find copies of what Google looked like in the really early days.

And there, as part of the oldest indexed copy of http://google.stanford.edu, we can find some pictures and stats for the Stanford Google Hardware.

Although, the pictures aren’t working (for me at least), but, I already found this same page somewhere in 2004 and I made a mirror back then, for all of you to enjoy. ^_^

Google Stanford Hardware

an excerpt:

click to enlarge (a little)

This is our faithful Sun Ultra II with dual 200MHz processors, and 256MB of RAM. This was the main machine for the original Backrub system.

click to enlarge (a little)

This is our homemade disk box which contains 10 9G SCSI drives.

click to enlarge (a little)

The whole thing. Now which keyboard do I use?

// INTERNET ARCHIVE ON 20040403102426.
// SECTION 108(a)(3)).

And when I saw these pics again a while ago, I had it! If Sergey and Larry could build this enormous business on top of an old Sun Ultra II, so can I right? *^_^*

Mine even has close to a gig of memory as opposed to their 256MB. And then I’m not even mentioning all the other Sun Ultra I boxes I have.

click any of the pics to enlarge them

And instead of building disk enclosures out of Lego blocks, I even have something the Google boys didn’t have, a 180GB (yes, that’s not a typo) SCSI-disk, which I put in an old Sun tape drive enclosure.

click any of the pics to enlarge them

So, I should have a competitive advantage over them, right? right? *^_^*

Well, of course this is a joke. In reality I have this old Sun hardware for quite some time and I hardly have a clue what to *really* do with it really. Other than to overthrow Google of course. ^_^

Anyway, my plan to overthrow Google is probably just as valid as the others and Google isn’t going to be overthrown on search, simply because they do a good enough job on that and probably will do for quite some time. Next to that (imho) this is simply not the time. No, the only time to ever overthrow Google is when their revenue runs dry and their main income happens to be, of course, advertising.

Before Google everyone was convinced Altavista (I’m old enough to have used altavista.digital.com) did a proper job on search. And before NVIDIA everyone thought Silicon Graphics did quite a good job on graphics, right? And just as Google thinks the way to overthrow Microsoft is by making the need for a standalone operating system more or less obsolete, the way (and time) to overthrow Google will be when there’s no need for advertising anymore, or at least, not through their system.

And who says Google is doing a good job on advertising? What’s the reference there? Personally I wasn’t too impressed with the earnings anyway, one of the reasons for me to don’t do ads at all.

Ah well, right now it’s time to celebrate ten years of Google and for the Googlers I hope there’s lots of schwag, which you can wear proud when Google turns 15 or 20, or, when things turn for the worse, sell on eBay one day. ^_^

I can’t help but wonder who’s going to be the next occupant of 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway in 5, 10, 20 years from now, since that one seems to be King of the Hill Valley. But maybe the Valley itself won’t be the epicenter of all things web anymore. If that’s going to be the case, it would be a nice upgrade for the Computer History Museum one day. ^_^

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  1. Scott @ 9 September 2008, 02:15 :

    Reading this made me smile: I know someone who has worked at Google since they were a start-up. She took me on a tour of the facilities at the Googleplex, and i have to say that they are so good to their employees, with free awesome food and workout facilities, lap pools, etc. She also hooked my up with several Google (employee type- IE “Google Engineering”) t-shirts and a awesome hat, as well as a canvas bag.

  2. b0p @ 10 September 2008, 17:01 :

    Interesting video about the Google Linux Cluster from 2002:

  3. Brendan Gerry @ 12 September 2008, 05:24 :

    Happy Birthday Mark, It may not be it here but it is there (I’m not staying up for it here) so let me be the first to wish you a happy 34th birthday and keep up the good work.

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