The popularity of Google+ hasn’t quite caught on just yet, though many speculate the networking giant is gearing up to unseat Facebook as the #1 social networking website.
The competition between Google and Facebook is an open secret that became public knowledge with Google’s (some would already say failed attempt) to muscle in on the social networking giant’s territory by launching Google+ in June 2011. The internet, it seems, isn’t big enough for both of them. Erik Jackson in Forbes magazine speculates that both might completely disappear within the next 5 years. Though it seems much more likely that one of these monster companies will fall by the wayside much sooner than the other. The bazillion dollar question though is which one? Perhaps there’s a clue in the set up of their data centers?
Try to visit a Google data center and you will likely get no further than the parking lot. At least that was the experience of Adam Blum when researching his book Tubes: Behind the Scenes At The Internet. Google is incredibly secretive about their data centers and takes the trouble to preserve this secrecy by obtaining permits through Limited Liability Corporations that seemingly have nothing to do with the company. Nobody knows how many centers there are, where they all are, how big or how much energy they use. Google believes the design and placement of their data centers gives them a competitive advantage and therefore keeps them shrouded in mystery.
You want to take a tour of a Facebook data center? No problem. You want to see how their cooling system works? (By using filtered desert air cooled by a water spraying system, apparently) No worries. You want to know where they are, how efficient they are and how big their carbon footprint is?
Hey, help yourself. Facebook built its first data center in Prineville, Oregon in 2010, rapidly expanding it to 334,000 sq ft and quickly adding another similar sized facility alongside. It’s now planning to add a third center at Prineville, turned on a new center in Forest City North Carolina in April and another, gigantic 900,000 sq ft one in Lulea, Sweden should be finished by 2014. How do we know all this? Because Facebook isn’t afraid to shout about it. In marked contrast to Google they publish tons of information on their data centers in what seems to be a mirroring of the open source software movement. The Open Compute Project, launched by Facebook in April 2011, is designed to open up data center specifications and designs for maximum power efficiency and economy.
Where Google is setting itself up as an entity that can go it alone, Facebook is opening its doors up to collaboration and cooperation with the wider internet community. While this provides no hard evidence on which company is likely to survive longer it does somewhat paint an image of Google as company that perceives itself to be under siege. Perhaps they just don’t see the bigger picture. The pace of technological change is more likely to speed up in the coming years. Can Facebook and Google keep up?
About the author: Jamie Griffiths writes for approved Index, the UK’s leading online B2B marketplace and source of quotes for computer network installation.