A week ago, The New York Times published an entertaining article by John Markoff and Saul Hansell about Google’s new data centers in Oregon, “Hiding in Plain Sight, Google Seeks More Power.” Since the link soon may lead to TimesSelect (read: $), I’ll pull one sentence to show the larger point of the article:

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are spending vast sums of capital to build out their computing capabilities to run both search engines and a variety of Web services that encompass e-mail, video and music downloads and online commerce.

Google’s reticence on the subject makes for some amusing anecdotes in the article, but mostly the article serves as a useful reminder that the Internet still obeys the laws of physics. Heat, energy, and physical space still matter, just in different ways.

Why do Google and others distribute their datacenters around the world?

Google has found that for search engines, every millisecond longer it takes to give users their results leads to lower satisfaction. So the speed of light ends up being a constraint, and the company wants to put significant processing power close to all of its users.

It’s not just search engines who need to deliver at (ahem) light speed. You can’t load google.com or yahoo.com or any other website without first making a DNS request (or several). That’s one reason (there are others, like redundancy & reliability) that OpenDNS runs its service from four geographically distributed locations, with more to come.

OpenDNS isn’t building datacenters, but we’re running our service from some of the best ones in the world. Also, we’re not so secretive that folks need to invoke Voldemort when referring to our company! From the article:

“No one says the ‘G’ word,” said Diane Sherwood, executive director of the Port of Klickitat, Wash., directly across the river from The Dalles, who is not bound by such agreements. “It’s a little bit like He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in Harry Potter.”

A note on being global

We know our coverage of the world beyond the United States can improve. London, England will be the next location online, probably in mid-July. Fortunately, in the short term, connectivity to the United States is quite good, and many Internet users outside the United States are relying on U.S.-based servers for much of their Internet experience already. That’s not ideal, of course. We want to be as fast for someone in Singapore as we are for someone in Seattle, but the speed of light will be a factor for now.

Let us know where in the world you are, as we make our future plans.

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