Author Archives: Stephanie Wong

A new podcast season about people powering the internet

Professional football player. Organizational psychologist. Mechanical engineer. Ice cream factory worker.

This list of careers may seem random, but they have something in common. They’re all part of the personal and professional histories of people who now work at Google data centers. These individuals, and their stories, take center stage in Season 2 of Where the Internet Lives, a podcast about the hidden world of data centers.

In Season 1, we pulled back the curtain to share how data centers work, what they mean to the communities that host them and our goal to run them on 24/7 carbon-free energy. In Season 2, we’re focusing on the lives and career journeys of ten people who help keep the internet running.

You’ll hear from folks like Mamoudou “D” Diallo, who grew up in Guinea-Conakry in West Africa. After scoring exceptionally well on a standardized test in high school, he traveled to Ukraine for college to study computer engineering — a subject that, up until that point, he had only read about in books. He later moved to Ohio for graduate school and spent 20 years working on technology in the financial sector. He has since shifted to the tech industry, and is now the site manager for Google’s data center in New Albany, Ohio.

Illustration of Mamoudou smiling and wearing a dark-colored suit and orange tie against a blue and orange background. Behind him are illustrated images, including two children playing with a soccer ball, a computer, a city skyline and components of a circuit board.

You’ll also hear from innovators like Juliana Conroy-Hoey, who designs mechanical systems, including ventilation and cooling for data centers in Europe. While she’s always been interested in the mechanics behind how things work, she never imagined the scale of what she’s working on today — a scale that has grown as data centers have, too. “The demand for data centers has increased significantly from the first data center that I worked on,” she says.

Illustration of Juliana smiling against a green background. She has long blonde hair and is wearing a white shirt and pearl earrings. Images in the background include a hand reaching for a computer chip, a data center, the skyline of Dublin, Ireland and industrial-sized fans.

These are just a few of the folks you’ll hear from in this season of Where the Internet Lives, and how their unique life experiences and backgrounds help them power the internet.

Listen to the first five episodes today, and subscribe to get notified when new episodes launch — including the next five in January 2022.

Our new animated series brings data centers to life

If you rely on the internet to search for the answer to a burning question, access work documents or stream your favorite TV show, you may have wondered how you can get the content you want so easily and quickly. You can thank a data center for that. 

Which may make you wonder: What exactly is a data center, and what is its purpose?

Google’s Discovering Data Centers series of short animated videos has the answers. As host of this series, I invite you to join us and learn about these expansive, supercomputer-filled warehouses that we all rely on, yet may know little about.

A loop of an animated video showing a data center campus surrounded by trees, blue sky, power lines, and wind turbines. Three small bubbles appear over the data center with images in each: a computer server to represent storage, wires to represent the power supply, and a fan to represent the cooling infrastructure.

Each video in this series helps peel back the layers on what makes data centers so fascinating: design, technology, operations and sustainability. There are times you click Start on Google Maps, edit a Google Doc or watch a YouTube video on how to fix something. By watching this series, you’ll better understand how Google’s data centers get you and billions of other users like you to that content quickly, securely and sustainably. 

Discovering Data Centers will help you understand: 

  • How data centers play a critical role in organizing your and the world’s information.
  • Data center design and how data centers are built to be sustainable. 
  • Our core principles, which show you can depend on us to be available 24/7. 

As the second season of our series gets underway, upcoming topics include: 

  • How hundreds of machines at a data center store data.
  • How our network allows data to travel through and between data centers within seconds. 
  • How encryption of data works to help secure every packet of data stored in our data centers.

To watch this series and see how data centers benefit you, visit our website. Check back monthly for new episodes where I’ll continue to reveal all the layers that make a data center hum. 

Click through the images below to read episode descriptions and take a peek at the engineering marvels that are today’s data centers.

One percent of Googlers get to visit a data center, but I did

For years I’ve wondered what it’s like behind the protected walls of a Google data center, and I’m not alone. In my job at Google, I spend my days working with developers. Our data centers are crucial to the work that they do, but most have never actually set foot inside a data center. And until recently, neither had I. I went on a mission to find answers to common questions like: Why are visits so tightly restricted? How secure is a Google data center? How do we meet regulatory requirements? Here's what I found out.

To keep our customers' data safe, we need to make sure the physical structure of the data center is absolutely secure. Each data center is protected with six layers of physical security designed to thwart unauthorized access. Watch the video above to follow my journey through these layers to the core of a data center, and read on to learn even more.

“Least privilege” is the rule to live by

badge swipe

There are two rules strictly enforced at all Google data centers. The “least privilege” protocol is the idea that someone should have only the bare minimum privileges necessary to perform their job. If your least privilege is to enter Layer 2, you won’t have luck moving to Layer 3. Each person’s access permissions are checked at badge readers that exist at every access point in a data center facility. Authorization measures happen everywhere using this protocol. 

Another rule exists that prevents a vehicle or individual closely following another to gain entry into a restricted area without a badge swipe. If the system detects a door open for too long, it immediately alerts security personnel. Any gate or door must close before the next vehicle or person can badge in and gain access.

Two security checks: badge first, then circle lock

circle lock

You’ve probably seen dual-authentication when you try to sign into an account and a one-time password is sent to your phone. We take a similar approach at the data centers to verify a person’s identity and access. At some layers in the data center, you’re required to swipe your badge, then enter a circle lock, or tubular doorway. You walk into a special "half portal" that checks your badge and scans your eyes to gain access to the next layer of the data center. It prevents tailgating because only one person is allowed in the circle lock at a time.

Shipments are received through a secure loading dock

The facility loading docks are a special section of Layer 3, used to receive and send shipments of materials, such as new hardware. Truck deliveries must be approved for access to Layer 3 to enter the dock. For further security, the loading dock room is physically isolated from the rest of the data center, and guard presence is required when a shipment is received or sent.

All hard drives are meticulously tracked

hard drive

Hard drive tracking is important to the security of your data because hard drives contain encrypted sensitive information. Google meticulously tracks the location and status of every hard drive within our data centers—from acquisition to destruction—using barcodes and asset tags. These asset tags are scanned throughout a hard drive's lifecycle in a data center from the time it’s installed to the time it's removed from circulation. Tracking hard drives closely ensures they don’t go missing or end up in the wrong hands.

We also make sure hard drives are properly functioning by doing frequent performance tests. If a component fails to pass a performance test, it’s deemed no longer usable. To prevent any sensitive information from living on that disk, we remove it from inventory to be erased and destroyed in Layer 6, Disk Erase. There, the disk erase formatter uses a multi-step process that wipes the disk data and replaces each bit of data with zeros. If the drive can’t be erased for any reason, it’s stored securely until it can be physically destroyed. 

Layered security extends into the tech itself

Our layered security approach isn’t just a physical safeguard for entering our data centers. It’s also how we protect the hardware and software that live in our data centers. At the deepest layer, most of our server boards and networking equipment are custom-designed by Google. For example, we design chips, such as the Titan hardware security chip, to securely identify and authenticate legitimate Google hardware. 

At the storage layer, data is encrypted while it travels in and out of the data center and when it’s stored at the data center. This means whether data is traveling over the internet moving between Google’s facilities, or stored on our servers, it’s protected. Google Cloud customers can even supply their own encryption keys and manage them in a third-party key management system deployed outside Google’s infrastructure. This defense-in-depth approach helps to expand our ability to mitigate potential vulnerabilities at every point

To learn more about our global data centers, visit our Data and Security page. We will also be sharing more about our security best practices during the upcoming Google Cloud Next ’20: OnAir event.