Inspired by 's post from earlier today, I'll relate my first visit to a datacenter. It was August, 1999, about a week after I had started at Google. Our traffic was growing very quickly, and we had just gotten a delivery of 400+ machines to our "cage" in the Exodus datacenter in Santa Clara. The machines were the infamous "corkboards", which we had designed in-house, and which featured a thin layer of cork to protect the motherboards from the cookie trays on which they were mounted on(well, more like "rested haphazardly on"). Each tray of four machines was served by a single power supply (which made for interesting failure domains), and had 8 disks total. Four of the disks were nicely mounted with actual screws towards the back of each tray, but four were place on a plexiglass sheet that was draped over the ribbon cables on top of the motherboards, giving a kind of springy base rather than a firm mounting point.
The two ops folks in the company at the time were a bit overwhelmed getting all of these machines cabled and ready to go, and the extra capacity was needed very soon, and so a call was sent out for volunteers to come help with a server wiring party. We all went down to the cage in waves. The cage was small enough and completely packed from floor to ceiling with computing equipment that only three or four people could work in there at once. Rack switches were bungee corded to the water pipes above the cage to prevent them from toppling off the tops of the racks (in fact, while we were doing the wiring, one of the racks did exactly that and gave one of my fellow wirers a nasty gash on the head).
In the end, we got all the machines up and running, and our users were happy the next morning.
Other relevant info:
Urs's post from earlier today, showing Google's first contract for datacenter space:
(Good discussion in the comments of this post, as well).
More info about the "corkboard" machines:
It's probably worth having kids just to be able to drop this one. Anyhow, cool article.
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