Coloured utility pipes at Google's data centre, Dalles, Oregon

PhotoEssay: inside Google's secret data centres

Google’s data-centres, the biggest in the world, could easily set the bar for an industry-wide standard, apart from the fact that it builds everything itself.

1 Wet, red and blue: water pipes in one of Google’s biggest US data centres, based at Dalles, Oregon. These corporate-colour-coded pipes are responsible for carrying water in and out of the site. The blue pipes supply cold water and the red pipes return the warm water back to be cooled. The Dalles facility was opened in 2006, at a reported cost of $600m. More than 150 staff are employed full-time on-site.

2 Down the hatch: technician Patrick Davillier inspects water pipes running under the floor, at Google’s Douglas County, Georgia, data centre. Google has had a data-processing presence in the Atlanta region since 2003, and employs some 300 people working there.

3 For what we are about to receive: the Antenna, Council Bluffs data centre, Iowa, US.This antenna handles signals for both Google’s Access Services unit and for Google Fiber’s high-definition TV relay service.

4 Finnish first: Google’s data centre in Hamina, Finland, one of three European data-centre installations. It’s housed in the 60-year-old Summa Mill: this previously belonged to Finnish paper company Stora Enso. The first phase of the project, reportedly costing about $200m, was completed in September 2011. In August 2012, Google announced a further $150m investment in phase two of the Hamina site development. This involves the restoration and conversion of an Alvar Aalto-designed machine hall (Aalto was one of Finland’s most renown architects and designers). A high-tech cooling system uses seawater from the Bay of Finland. More than 90 people work on-site as computer technicians; mechanical, electrical and water (HVAC) engineers; facilities and grounds maintenance staff; catering; and security personnel.

5 They’ve been called the beating heart of the Web age, places ‘where the Internet lives’. For increasing numbers of Google’s technological workforce, the twinkling lights of servers and routers constitute their daily workplace.

6  Google associate facilities manager Jeff Hajer burns some wire in a fabrication area, at the Lenoir, North Carolina, facility.

7 In 2007, Google announced plans to construct a data centre in Council Bluffs, Iowa. A second facility was announced in Q2/2012; the overall investment so far exceeds $900m, Google claims, with 130 staff employed across both facilities. A collection of switches and routers that keep Google’s data centres in contact. The fibre cables run along the yellow cable trays near the ceiling.

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