Google uses glamour to push the green agenda by Peter Judge
This week, everyone’s been looking at the images of Google’s data centers, but what have we learned?
In a nutshell, we now know that if you put a top-rank professional photographer inside eight data centers, she can make a great data-center photo story - and great PR for Google.
Connie Zhou got the job - and can now be called “the Annie Liebowitz of data centers”. Journalists who trudge round data centers can only look on jealously. We do our best with our pix, but we snatch them on lightning tours, while juggling notebooks and recorders to take note of the facts.
We don’t have the luxury of lights, tripods and time - or even plain simple access. GigaOM’s Katie Fehrenbacher ruefully says: “This is how far I got into Google’s Lenoir facility,” over a picture of a stop signt - and quite a distant picture at that.
Journalists have the added burden of providing written information. I’ve turned down four London data center visits in the last month alone, purely because of the pressure of providing words for my site, TechWeekEurope.
So Connie Zhou got in where we haven’t. What has she told us? For data center professionals, these photos won’t add much to our knowledge.
We already knew that Google uses grey-water and sea water for cooling. These pictures show us the water is carried.... in pipes! And the pipes are in Google’s corporate colors! And the hot water goes through... the red pipe!
We can enjoy seeing how big Google’s operation is, and the sauna at the Hamina, Finland center underlines how Google’s corporate strength must make it a good place to work.
Some say the pictures get across things which otherwise wouldn’t be understood. A pile of shattered disk drives illustrates Google’s data protection policies better than a list of statistics, we are told.
That’s not strictly true of course. There’s no new information in these images.
But they are getting exposure, and in places where the raw data never would. And I think they are a counterbalance to growing criticism of data centers.
The New York Times’ critical - and much-criticised - investigative piece went in looking for dirt. Here Google is making a bid to put its side of the story, and shooting to the opposite extreme of highly-managed public relations.
Data centers consume 1.5 percent of the world’s power - a factoid that has now been reported (and mis-reported) in more places thanks to Google, and one which will increase the scrutiny of the sector.
As data centers get looked at with a more critical eye, Google’s epic photo brochure looks like a start to the industry’s marketing fight-back.