Nowadays Google's data centers are massive and very impressive, but they weren't always that way. Fifteen years later, one of Google's first employees, Urs Hölzle reminisced about the first Google data center on Google+.
In 1999, Hölzle entered a Google data center for the first time. He wasn't a Google employee yet and he had no idea that one day he would be the company's first chief engineer or that Google would grow so big. As he wrote in a Google+ post, the first Google data center wasn't anything special--it was quite small.
"[Y]ou couldn't really "set foot" in the first Google cage because it was tiny (7'x4', 2.5 sqm) and filled with about 30 PCs on shelves," he wrote. "a1 through a24 were the main servers to build and serve the index and c1 through c4 were the crawl machines."
At that time, Google had a second cage, which was quite a bit larger with four rows, "each containing 21 machines named d1-42 and f1-42," according to Hölzle. For some reason unknown to him, b and e racks were excluded. Google co-founder Sergey Brin commented on Hölzle's post to explain.
"We skipped 'b' because 'c' stood for crawl," Brin wrote back to clarify. "I then decided to skip 'e' because I figured it sounded too much like 'd' and would be confusing, though of course we later adopted all the other similar sounding letters anyway."
In his post, Hölzle continued, describing where the first Google data center was located.
"Our direct neighbor was eBay, a bit further away was a giant cage housing DEC / Altavista, and our next expansion cage was directly adjacent to Inktomi," he wrote. "The building has long since been shut down."
Hölzle also posted a photo of an invoice documenting the server's capabilities and cost. The invoice shows that Google had to pay $1,200 a month for only one megabit of data. The company could buy only two megabits at a time, too. Somehow, Google found a way to get a discount on data prices, though.
"You'll see a second line for bandwidth, that was a special deal for crawl bandwidth. Larry had convinced the salesperson that they should give it to us for 'cheap' because it's all incoming traffic, which didn't require any extra bandwidth for them because Exodus traffic was primarily outbound," Hölzle explained.
Looking back, it's amazing to see how far Google has come. Although Google's first data center is now closed, many objects from the first data center are displayed in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.