Friday, February 01, 2008

GOOGLE: The Columbia River Security Risk

How the datacenter boom in Oregon could send Google and the NSA offline simultaneously.

June 25, 2007

What Google tried to keep secret for most of 2006, the NSA had known for decades: the Columbia River Valley is the perfect place to crunch high volumes of data.

Back in the 90s, the forward-thinking taxpayers of Oregon built an $11 million datacenter in the city of Quincy, population 85,000, along the banks of the Columbia River, where a number of hydroelectric dams generate lots of cheap, clean, renewable energy, but the dot-com bubble burst before the investment was put to good use. So it sat there mostly empty until Yahoo rented some of its space. Then, in 2006, Google began its super-secret data center construction in nearby The Dalles, population 12,000, to take advantage of the preinstalled fiber optic infrastructure and cheap power within the same geographic region as its northern California headquarters.

Soon, other big Internet companies headquartered in the Northwest – Microsoft, Yahoo, Ask and Intuit, for starters – began to relocate their data centers to the Columbia River Basin. In early 2006, the Associated Press also revealed that the NSA, the national eavesdropping agency, had its own facility on the Columbia River in neighboring Washington State on the Army’s gigantic Yakima Training Center. NSA’s Yakima facility, along with its sister installation in Sugar Grove, W. Va., operate within a surveillance network called Echelon, that includes America, the UK, and the remnants of the British Empire: Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

But has the bottleneck in datacenters in one centralized spot caused a security risk that could risk the health of the Internet as we know it? Could a terrorist strike on a brick-and-mortar facility or its geological surroundings send Google and the NSA offline simultaneously?

It seems unlikely, but the region’s two precious commodities would be the most likely targets: the fiber-optic infrastructure, which connects all those giant datacenters with end users around the world; and the series of massive hydroelectric dams that provide the Columbia River datacenters with the cheap power they need.

Google’s 650,000-core warehouse-size computer


October 23rd, 2007

Posted by Robin Harris @ 12:42 pm

My quad-core tower suddenly feels wimpy
What does it take to power the world’s most popular search engine? Lots of CPU cycles. Which is just what Google’s new data centers provide. No one is talking, thanks to Google’s tight NDA policy, but with satellite imagery and some deft estimation we can figure it out.

Powering a warehouse-sized computer?
OK, how big is a warehouse-sized computer? Google wrote a paper about it (see Google’s warehouse-size power problem), but they were vague on details like the number of processors.

Take Google’s new data center on the banks of the Columbia river in The Dalles, Oregon. The area had been hurting since the aluminum smelters shut down after power went over $30 per megawatt. Pricing is complex, but it looks to be about $45/mw today.

If that sounds cheaper than what you pay, it is. A lot cheaper. That’s why Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are building data centers in the hydropower-rich Columbia river basin. The world’s best windsurfing is just a bonus.


  1. This post is for Dad to put in his organic hard drive. See previous post. Check it out Highway...I think that you have plenty of band width.....zzzzzzZZZZZZZ

  2. And you call US foilers? LOL! You're the King, baby! ;-)

    And don't be giving Bu$hco any ideas, huh? He's still patting himself on the back for 911!

    If there were a threat from "turrists" it's the government, itself. But you're right... all of that consolidated data is too conveniently placed for any aspiring totalitarian NOT to be tempted.

    I think the idea of storing data is good, but not all in one place, and there should possibly be a secret alternative way to get it out in lieu of an elitist crackdown. How to do that, well, I'll leave that to the purview of the tech's!

  3. Awright G:, you da man! LOL!

    These huge data processing centers generate alot of waste heat too, as much as a coal burning power plant I've read;

    Actually, that's about diesel generators, but you get the idea.

    Here's a site about the expanding Google-Plex;

    Scary shite. This security and surveillence schtick is fast becoming the largest private employer in the U.S.!

  4. The first computer that I ever tried was with an engineering firm I worked for. It was a dial-up connection to a Wang that was a central hub. I worked in the field, but they brought all of us grunts in so we could try it too. We thought we were supercomputing, but mainly played Pong.

    Looks like we're going back to the same concept, but with PC's instead of telephones, and Google instead of Wang. Note that Wang is a Chinese name...G:

  5. Bigger risk: volcanoes and earthquakes.

    I believe Seattle was rated #1 for catastrophic disaster due to the combination.

    Mt.s Baker, Rainier, Adams, St. Helens and Hood are all active - non-dormant - volcanoes. When Mt Rainier last erupted, 5,000 years ago, the pyroclastic flows went all the way into south Seattle.

    Robin Harris