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15 years ago we placed the largest server order in our history: 1680 servers, packed into the now infamous "corkboard" racks that packed four small motherboards onto a single tray. (You can see some preserved racks at Google in Building 43, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, and at the National Museum of American History in DC, http://americanhistory.si.edu/press/fact-sheets/google-corkboard-server-1999.)  

At the time of the order, we had a grand total of 112 servers so 1680 was a huge step.  But by the summer, these racks were running search for millions of users.  In retrospect the design of the racks wasn't optimized for reliability and serviceability, but given that we only had two weeks to design them, and not much money to spend, things worked out fine.

BTW the four white pins in the forefront are the reset buttons for the four servers, and the disks are mounted on a plexiglass board which lies on top of the board (not attached -- there was no time to design a proper bracket).
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42 comments
 
Were there any issues with noise at the time?

I've seen a video in which hdd's are affected by noise.  This setup seems like there is little protection for ears or hdd's.
 
That's what you call a Mark I 
 
For reference sake Urs, how many servers are there now?
 
Is it still in operation ( parts ) ? witch 1 going to museums ( bid ) witch one going to recycling ? 
 
Sorry for trying to sell ( kind of mindset ) sure donations to museum are more than welcome...
 
Amazing piece of history. Did King Star Inc. get the bonuses? :)
 
And when did the last bunch drop off the machine allocation list? :-)
 
Stick some bitcoin QR code on the 'for sale' 2nd hand hardware 
 
Don't forget the importance of the skilled rewiring job done by the facilities and marketing staffs at CableFest '99.
 
+Pete Hage For reference, we have more than an order of magnitude more now :-) What's more amazing though is that a very small number of current servers (3-4, but that's just a guess) have as much compute and storage as these 21 racks, so we could serve 1999's traffic on just these 3-4 servers. Which would have deprived +Doug Edwards of a valuable opportunity to learn cabling. 
 
Fascinating.  +Urs Hölzle any comment with regards to Moore's law and expectations looking forward in 10 years?  15 years?
 
I recall reading about these in "In the Plex" and especially like the reactions of the managers of that colo datacenter where these were hosted.  They couldn't figure out how that much heat and load per rack could be possible.
 
Opened new room ( PS not much space for logging ) need to make some notes for bit bazaar community ) .... C y fellow
 
+Urs Hölzle I think you have a typo where you say it's at the American Museum of Natural History in DC. I think you mean at the National Museum of American History (the AMNH is in NYC, and deals with a different type of history typically). 
 
Exodus SC5

Chris Hardin "forget about RLX" - "Google has gone insane / commenting on what he had to deal with 
 
This is amazing (from a final-year IT Student's perspective) :D Thanks +Urs Hölzle for sharing! Rock on!
 
thanks for sharing this, I have not gone to GOOGLE plus in a bit, and it's really wonderful, the many doors and vectors of social and economic, environmental and personal change that such basic tech could open for humanity, and even the whales, lions, tigers and bears, the trees, the herbs, lichen type things, you help us to work with them, instead of against their interests. I hope search tech can lead our world toward Peace and prosperity, and away from war, strife and suffering.
Cheers ! Take it easy and have a great weekend Larry )
 
+Urs Hölzle curious what was special about servers 11-21 that warranted a bonus?

It's also interesting that the motherboards held up to supporting the weight of its harddrive and itself.
 
Fascinating - thanks!  And surprising that you'd only invest 2 weeks in design before such a massive order - can you say more?
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No display card? Its seem P6SBM have not integrated VGA chip...
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