Google celebrates data center

Charleston Post and Courier
Katy Stech
October 8, 2008

The recognizable Google logo was plastered onto balloons, T-shirts and a sign posted outside a Berkeley County industrial park on Tuesday.

It was all part of the Internet search giant’s celebration Tuesday of its official arrival in the Lowcountry. The festivities were in the shadow of Google’s $600 million data center near Goose Creek.

Elected officials, business leaders and a handful of local residents attended the private ceremony, which provided a rare glimpse into the secretive Silicon Valley company’s 500-acre site off U.S. Highway 52.

The boxy industrial building houses a data center that was designed to process and store information that Internet search users can request and retrieve.

Google maintains massive virtual information storage centers. For example, its servers upload about 30 hours of video from the company’s subsidiary every minute.

“All of us are at the epicenter of world-class, leading technology that we can all be proud of,” said Goose Creek Mayor Michael Heitzler.

The local Google data center is still in the testing phase, and a second, identical building under construction nearby is far from complete. But local Internet users probably won’t notice when it does open up, said Andy Johnson, manager of Google’s global data center development.

The company would not allow anyone at Tuesday’s event inside for competitive reasons and to protect the privacy of Google users. Users of the company’s Gmail service, for example, might have their personal data stored on one of the local servers, and letting outsiders into the facility makes that information less secure, Johnson said.

What is known is that the first completed building houses some office space but is mostly full of high-tech hardware, wiring and other electronic components.

Cool water will circulate through pipes to make sure equipment does not overheat. The facility could use up to 1 million gallons a day.

Executives said the Berkeley County center was specially built to use half of the electricity that most data sites need. Johnson wouldn’t disclose the number of workers Google has hired to date for the local operation. About 200 workers are expected to work there once the site is up and running in a few years.

Jeff Stevenson, a 1991 Citadel graduate and former Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic employee, has been named as the local data center’s program manager.

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