Phil Butler

Phil Butler Phil is editor-in-chief of Argophilia Travel News, and Senior Partner at Pamil Visions PR. View full author page


Google Reveals Secret Data Centers, But Why Now?


    Yesterday Google came forward with text, pictures, and even a virtual tour of their secret data centers. Now, one of the Internet giant’s most closely guarded subjects is offered up via guided tours and even a Google Plus media show. But why now? 

    Anyone who knows anything about Google knows that data big and small is a huge component of their business. Whether you are one of those who fear your personal info may be used against you or not, anyone who surfs the web has heard tell of “privacy concerns” as the term applies to social networks, search engines, and other service providers.

    In fairness, it’s only reasonable that Google, or Amazon for the matter, go to great lengths to not only protect your data, but the overall investment of storing it. Knowing this, some will question the “why and when” of this news, while others might reasonably assume Google is only doing what they always do, engage people on a one-to-one on the Internet. And there is ample evidence of “humanized tech” shown purely in the company’s wide acceptance. Still. 



    “Where the Internet Lives” 

    First, let’s look at just how far Google has gone to “show off” now their super secret data centers. Using the platform of G+, the company has profiled As Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President, of Google’s Technical Infrastructure says in the blog post; “We go to great lengths to protect it (your data) … only a small set of employees have access to the server floor itself.” Reading the blog, it hits you. “This sounds like a PR campaign.” Worse still, it rings of super geeks detached from the reality of ordinary people’s perception. Google houses your Internet, owns it? Indeed. 

    High resolution images, a storybook of information, reader flow even shows not only Google’s insides, but that somebody went to a lot of trouble to present it. The image above is of the Mayes County, Oklahoma center. I bet you never imagined Google there. When you visit Google’s “plus” pages of the same name, that’s what you’ll read. Talk about transparency, either the PR machine at Google stumbled on this one, or some karmic force ensured the world would see how the world’s biggest tech company sees itself.

    Meanwhile a 100 page memo circulates about the offices of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking the five commissioners there their opinions on whether or not the agency should engage Google with an anti-trust lawsuit over their search practices. Voila! 

    Here we find one good reason, amid many, for Google to go on a reputation management binge. Let’s face it, Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s little garage endeavor has grown to modern day epic proportions, and not without having made a lot of enemies along the way. Of late, the company’s Panda and Penguin search paradigms have angered tens of thousands. The Oracle lawsuit, competition with Facebook and Twitter, the so called FairSearch alliance aimed at travel fare search fairness, the company millions have come to love and trust was about due for an assault – or a tumble, depending on how one perceives. 



    Think! Everyman Is Google

    A lot has transpired since Larry Page took over the lead at Google some months back. The company has entered into competition far afield from their core search competency. Everyone knows this, and many cheer for Google. However, every increasingly Google creates detractors. Today Google for many seems to have gone against Sergey Brin’s “don’t be evil” motto. Forget that Google search owns 66.8% of the market there, it’s “inside search” metrics where the company has a problem. The search engine result pages are now skewed to highly favor companies that one way or another profit Google. While this is good business sense, the end result destroys the competitive edge of anyone not closely tied to Google’s revenue. Enter the FTC and a potential disaster for not only Google’s search revenue schema, but the company’s brand as well. 

    Public perception has always been levied in order to influence. This is a presidential election year, no one reading this should be obtuse about PR and hype. Unveiling super duper secret Google data centers is a “poke” at transparency, sure. But, showing the spanking clean Lenoir, North Carolina data center with those common workers in there? Everyman and Everywomanchugging away at their tasks, tattoos and t-shirts sparkling, this is symbolic of a media campaign aimed at reputation management for one, and maybe a judicial preemptive on the other. At least this is one view.

    Funny thing though, Google inviting Wired to tour their data centers first (see blog post), somehow coincides with an article on the tech blog that breaches technology and heads off into Constitutional law? “Monopolies: Antitrust Law Protects Consumers Not Competitors” by former law professor Marvin Ammori, does a nice job of rationalizing a Google monopoly – that is, if the consumer wants it. I quote Ammori’s disclaimer at article’s end: 

    “Disclosure: My law firm and I do work for Google and a few other technology companies. These are my own views and do not represent those of my firm or our clients.”



    So here we see the telling of the story of Ash Williams (image below) a Google water treatment guy from the Douglas County, Georgia center, this is brilliant PR actually. Almost cohabiting alongside Wired condensing monopolies down to “the end justifies the means”. At least a Wired contributor, that is. I quote once again from the aforementioned article:

    “The key question is whether a monopoly is harming consumers – or merely harming its competitors for the benefit of those consumers.”

    Is it now? Will the next PR blitz be to convince people Google should make all the rules? Look, everyone knows what the Google founders look like, and everyone imagines those billionaires doing what billionaires do. Geek heroes are a bit like modern day superheroes, celebs of a high order at the least. Not so many of us think of Google as a “factory” or a data center, or even a company with lobbyists to war on Capitol Hill. What this “campaign” does appear to do is humanize the Internet conglomerate. Perfect, almost!

    About halfway through researching for this article, it hit me. The enormity of what Google really is. Here on the Internet, surfing about via our smart devices or 22 inch monitors, the totality of this company’s reach is a bit obscure. Looking at $1 million dollars of pipes and steel or $10 million in blade servers, lights, cameras, and human action – if you multiply this by the infrastructure and what it takes to run such a conglomeration of businesses… You see it, don’t you? And the battle has already begun where lawsuits and talk of monopoly goes. ars technica’s   tells of Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) basically warning the FTC over stepping on Google toes.

    A final note here, if you look at the posts on the Google Blog recently it may appear to you the company is engaging special interests more predominantly than is usual. Hispanics to teachers and even those who wonder about “openness” – various Google authors seem to be lobbying for me. This could be a single-minded perception though. 

    You, Make Up Your Own Mind

    Ash treating water in Georgia is tantamount to you or I doing the same or similar job. Google as a monopoly, or oligopoly, or Big Brother even dissipates in the mind’s eye once we humanize the actual place. Make no mistake though, this is a money making machine of monumental proportions. I just think it is important that we “balance” our perception of this and other business entities. As I stated before, there is room here to believe all this “data showing” is just business as usual for Google stockholders. Brin’s Google Glass shows, the XLabs, Lady Gaga commercials, our Internet Goliath certainly knows the marketing game. 

    People have to make up their own minds, as they will. Influenced by big corporate PR, or by old tech writers asking crazy questions, these events need our scrutiny at the very least. As the saying goes; “timing is everything” – so, what do you believe? Please let us know your opinion. Is Google playing a big time PR game, or is the company just opening up for the sake of understanding?


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