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Google Moves From Search To Inventor

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the leaping-the-gap dept.

131

TubHarsh writes "The New York Times reports that Google continues to expand its scope from search engine to inventor. Google assembles the majority of the hardware it uses and deploys at such a large scale, that Google may be 'the world's fourth-largest maker of computer servers, after Dell, Hewlett-Packard and I.B.M.'. The article also states that Google may be entering the chip design market with new employees who were ex-Alpha Chip engineers."

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That Link You Ordered, Sir (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649129)

I don't like being a karma whore but here's a working link to the NYTimes article [nytimes.com] . And, if you're like me and hate ads, try out the text only version [nytimes.com] . That's right, in order to get to read an article without obstruction, you have to pretend to be both an RSS feed AND a printing machine.

Now to comment on something I read in the article:
"At some point you have to ask yourself what is your core business," said Kevin Timmons, Yahoo's vice president for operations. "Are you going to design your own router, or are you going to build the world's most popular Web site? It is very difficult to do both."
I disagree with that. I think it should be re-stated to say "It is very difficult to accomplish more than you have the resources to sustain." It's fatal in thinking that you only do one thing for a business to be successful. A simple analogy would be the farms that I grew up on. No one specialized in one crop or animal. Why? Because sometimes the market would tank for one particular thing and it would tank hard. If you had a distributed investment in produce (like a portfolio) then you would survive most of the market problems. I think Google's strategy is much the same in that they are trying to cement themselves in other technologies--not because they're going to lose the search market--just because it's a smart thing to do.

I think that there's a lot to be said about concentrating on one thing and getting it right. If you do get it right, then it's encouraged to move on to something else. I think Google has found themselves in the top of the search engine market. They found out that their technology doesn't work so well for closed domains (military or business level searching) so I think they just need to keep looking for new ways to stay ahead of the competition. Meanwhile, they have seemingly unlimited resources. Why not try to build your own router?

I mean, fresh graduates are cheap. Some fresh graduates have a lot of ideas and are decent workers while the majority of others are lemons that don't do anything. Why not hire a bunch of them and spend a lot of money weeding them out? I think it's great that Google's taking a stab at other technologies and I honestly think they have a good strategy for doing it.

To comment further on the article, Google makes unreliable machines reliable en masse via redundancy. They are indeed very secretive about their technology but if you want to learn more about their page ranking algorithms or basic technologies, why not read their patents? They always seem to be covered on Slashdot anyway.

Re:That Link You Ordered, Sir (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15649208)

I don't like being a karma whore
Then post anon, you cheeky little monkey.

Re:That Link You Ordered, Sir (3, Funny)

Kaetemi (928767) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649229)

"you have to pretend to be both an RSS feed AND a printing machine"

You just invented and RSS feed printer!
Don't forget to run to the patent office ;)

Re:That Link You Ordered, Sir (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15649286)

Is this your way of turning this article into something vaguely resembing a dupe?
Because the RSS feed printer has been covered [slashdot.org] already. A very special RSS feed printer at that.

Article reads like a re-hashed press release (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15650023)

Doesn't the NYT's article read just like a re-hashed Google press release with a sprinkle of 'bad' quotes about Google just to appear journalistic?

I expect better journalism from the NYT.

Secretive? (3, Interesting)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649256)

They are indeed very secretive about their technology

Yes, so I thought. And indeed the article says, "Google is notoriously secretive about its technology", "Google will not comment on its costs". Yet Bill Gates is quoted as saying "Google doesn't have anything magic here. We spend a little bit more per machine. But to do the same tasks, we have less machines.".

A web search doesn't turn up the reference for that quote (and the article doesn't link to it), so it's hard to know the context. But still, it does seem odd. How can Gates know such details, which are supposedly secret? I don't know whether to doubt the truth of his claim, or to wonder about how he could have found it out.

Re:Secretive? (3, Informative)

danskal (878841) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649342)

I think that the article means "software technology". Google has in the past been quite open about the hardware it uses. I remember a quote (though I am not enough of a karma whore to dredge it up), where one of the google guys said that if they ran out of server horsepower, they just wandered down to the nearest Kwik-e Mart (TM) and picked up a bunch of new PCs. Most big companies would think to themselves: "We are really big so we must need really big servers", without actually doing the maths of what they really need. So most if not all big sites use much bigger servers (at least in terms of price, if not cpu power, memory, HDD space) than Google. Google's secret is its clustering algorithm, which enables it to spread the load over very many small servers, and still get a lightning fast response back to the user.

Re:Secretive? (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649443)

They're still not too specific about what those servers are. The basic premise that it's lots of cheap stuff is one thing, but cheap (in this area), might still mean a 2-socket Xeon/Opteron (a rather odd definition of cheap) versus gigantic Itanium/SPARC/POWER machines. The balance between disk and RAM is probably also not that of a typical desktop.

Re:Secretive? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650488)

The numbers are a bit out of date as the quote is from the 2002 timeframe but here's one about the google hardware:

Because Google servers are custom made, we'll use pricing information for comparable PC-based server racks for illustration. For example, in late 2002 a rack of 88 dual-CPU 2-GHz Intel Xeon servers with 2 Gbytes of RAM and an 80-Gbyte hard disk was offered on RackSaver.com for around $278,000. This figure translates into a monthly capital cost of $7,700 per rack over three years.

The cost advantages of using inexpensive, PC-based clusters over high-end multiprocessor servers can be quite substantial, at least for a highly parallelizable application like ours. The example $278,000 rack contains 176 2-GHz Xeon CPUs, 176 Gbytes of RAM, and 7 Tbytes of disk space. In comparison, a typical x86-based server contains eight 2-GHz Xeon CPUs, 64 Gbytes of RAM, and 8 Tbytes of disk space; it costs about $758,000.2 In other words, the multiprocessor server is about three times more expensive but has 22 times fewer CPUs, three times less RAM, and slightly more disk space. Much of the cost difference derives from the much higher interconnect bandwidth and reliability of a high-end server, but again, Google's highly redundant architecture does not rely on either of these attributes.

Quote from here [manageability.org] .

Re:Secretive? (1)

michrech (468134) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649578)

A web search doesn't turn up the reference for that quote (and the article doesn't link to it), so it's hard to know the context. But still, it does seem odd. How can Gates know such details, which are supposedly secret? I don't know whether to doubt the truth of his claim, or to wonder about how he could have found it out.

Possibly all those "ex-Microsoft" employees, perhapps, maybe?

Re:That Link You Ordered, Sir (3, Insightful)

70Bang (805280) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649716)



Microsoft won't change their stance on Google.

I've said many times [that] Microsoft's strategy (so far) has been to keep Google labelled a search engine, and only a search engine, (albeit covertly) as long as possible to keep Google hemmed in and avoid letting people begin to see what's up Google's shirt sleeves. This has been a stall tactic. Microsoft has got to have a lot of gerbils running on the wheels to come up with ways to find the silver bullet to put right between Google's eyes. Do they think they'll find it? Probably. Will they? Probably not. Should they be scared? Yes.

I don't think it's worked, but it's the only tactic Microsoft knows. After all, their primary arsenal has always been Huey, Dewey and Louie (Marketing, Sales, and PR). When Microsoft runs out of arrows in its quiver, it'll become the one thing it has thought would never happen: become just another company, just as IBM became when Microsoft didn't renew their contract ('89? '90?)for a joint OS and it became Windows & OS/2. IBM just wasn't able to get the sell-through Microsoft got with Windows, and Microsoft was the new king of the mountain.

What's hurting Microsoft isn't they came late to the show (avoided during the most infamous "Summer of Bill" but they've had to grow from the desktop up to a global perspective, but that Google hasn't even worried about the desktop (so far). They got started at the global level and just focused upon information management, leaving a browser, essentially any browser, as the interface. I see it to be what happened to Encyclopædia Britannica when everything was electronic and they were left thinking about their next hardcopy print run, then trying to get an electronic format (and people buying CDs and DVDs) vs. something such as Wikipedia which started online.

I'm not saying every company or product which starts online will always be better, but the odds are against a hard world company|product being able to prevent or leapfrog a company which doesn't have to worry about a bridge from the past to the future and not lose sight of both balls in the air.

Another good example is BlockBuster and Netflix. Blockbuster's underlying algorithm (business model) was based upon late return fees. NetFlix comes along such that brick & mortar means nothing, reducing all of the financial obligations which go along with it, including a dependence upon those late fees. BlockBuster suddenly realized they were getting dusted in all but impulse rentals and had to do something. First, they tried to pull a fast one over everyones' eyes by declaring "no late fees" whilst slipping a hand into your wallet. When they got caught, they realized they'd better do something...and fast. So they picked the most successful video rental business model they could find on short notice: NetFlix. Just a price war.

Lots of other stories could be listed as well (e.g., Amazon vs. B&N, Border's, etc.)


Re:That Link You Ordered, Sir (1)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650341)

A simple analogy would be the farms that I grew up on. No one specialized in one crop or animal. Why? Because sometimes the market would tank for one particular thing and it would tank hard.

Then a giant corporate farm that specialized in one crop would come in and buy it out, right?

Horse Testicles (0, Troll)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649144)

Agreed, number one. Let us go number two!

Google chips? (4, Interesting)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649146)

Now that does interest me. If they can show the same level of industrious innovation that they have in other fields, I'm excited about the impact this may have on the server-market, if nothing else.

I just hope that, if they are developing chips in-house (and if they are, I expect them to be cheap and powerful), they are less tight-fisted than they are with their other technical innovations. A new power-player in the CPU market would be great for us end-users

Seriously though, if they start manufacturing all their own hardware from scratch, they're probably going to be more independent than any major computer-based international in recent history. *exaggeration ends*

Re:Google chips? (5, Interesting)

Jasin Natael (14968) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649223)

Hmm... I'd kind of like to buy a RAID card that is accelerated for database and/or search work. I mean, issue high-level commands to the controller hardware, and let it collect the results while the main processor is doing something else. We're getting to the point where classical RDBMS systems are pretty well-understood, and the average RAID controller has a fair bit of hardware already. How far are we from having some relatively simple processor with an inflated L1 cache and high clock rate that does the heavy database work (including RAID/transaction logging) before it even reaches your machine?

It makes sense to do this, because database performance is big business -- just look at what some companies spend on licensing Oracle! As long as you're not worried about spatial queries, you could probably even get by without an FPU. There might be a lot of justification for this.

Re:Google chips? (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649242)

Are you talking about a kind of Super-SCSI? How much takes place on the card and how much on the RAID (or on the drives on the RAID)? How much would you gain by moving this onto the motherboard as a support chipset? You seem to be talking about a Storage Processor Unit. An SPU.

Re:Google chips? (1)

JahToasted (517101) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649564)

I think you're onto something there. Google is all about search. They're probably going to make a search chip that puts various search algorithms on a chip so that their search appliances find stuff faster.

Of course there will be a lot of speculation about them making CPU's and are going to take on AMD and Intel. But the simplest explanation is that they are making hardware to improve their search performance.

Re:Google chips? (1)

XNormal (8617) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649657)

Hmm... I'd kind of like to buy a RAID card that is accelerated for database and/or search work.

RAID card? irrelevant. Google's entire production database is in RAM. Disks are just for boot and persistence.

Re:Google chips? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15649718)

LMAO. Best ever morning joke on \.

Re:Google chips? (2, Insightful)

Jasin Natael (14968) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650345)

That's the traditional model. TFA talks about Google needing to get away from some of their search-business habits for their new ventures, like online payment processing and the like. Redundant persistence, logging, failover protection, etc. is a huge issue any time your database works with information that represents some kind of monetary value. It could be manipulating auction bids, virtual property like Second Life or WoW, or actual money, but there are grave legal dangers if there is something in dispute worth suing over, and your database isn't properly atomic & serializable.

The 'database card' concept could be good, using (e.g.) SRAM (or at least a separate DRAM bank) to hold transaction logs while they execute before writing a checkpoint to the logs on disk. If the power / host machine / etc fails, then a protective circuit with a small battery could write the working log and active queries to Flash memory to ensure they won't be lost. That's a problem that you simply can't solve as well without specialized hardware, or sacrificing a great deal of performance.

Re:Google chips? (1)

clyons (126664) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649756)

So the system CPU(s) would then be free to work on finding Sarah Connor?

Re:Google chips? (2, Interesting)

cowbutt (21077) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650006)

I'd kind of like to buy a RAID card that is accelerated for database and/or search work. I mean, issue high-level commands to the controller hardware, and let it collect the results while the main processor is doing something else.

This was my degree supervisor's main research interest. Searching for 'Intelligent File Store' in conjunction with 'Essex' and 'Lavington' should find lots of juicy info.

Re:Google chips? (5, Funny)

kv9 (697238) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649280)

The article also states that Google may be entering the chip design market with new employees who were ex-Alpha Chip engineers.

lemme guess, the chips are gonna be called... "Beta"?

Re:Google chips? (1)

Red Jesus (962106) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649461)

lemme guess, the chips are gonna be called... "Beta"?

Of course! What don't they call "Beta"?

Re:Google chips? (2, Funny)

Moofie (22272) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650529)

Because jokes get funnier when you explain them to us. Thanks!

Re:Google chips? (2, Insightful)

Neoncow (802085) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649971)

lemme guess, the chips are gonna be called... "Beta"?
The great thing about beta is we'll get the chips for free!

Re:Google chips? (1)

Geminii (954348) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649331)

Even if they released the specs, there's no guarantee that these chips would be general-purpose units compatible with your average beige-box, discount-store, consumer-level workstation mobo.

Re:Google chips? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15649378)

If they can show the same level of industrious innovation that they have in other fields, I'm excited about the impact this may have on the server-market, if nothing else.


You mean they'll analyse the contents of your RAM and present you with adds on every memory access? Cool!

Given the strange breadth of their current patent portfolio, it seems likely that they are just prepping up to become the worlds largest patent troll.

Re:Google chips? (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649565)

Gawd yes. Alpha chip designers -- back to KESU model? Complete eradication of buffer overrun problems? Maybe they could get Dave Cutler to help. He moved VMS to WNT (to a security-crippled chip architecture, compared to Vax / Alpha wrt. instruction/address space ring-fencing). I wonder what magic he could weave if given his 'druthers in a chip's instruction design. I wonder what he would do to the Linux kernel. I wonder how many chairs Ballmer would throw.

Of course, they'd have the challenge of inventing a backronym for XOU, the next logical TLA in the chain. eXtended Operand Unit?

Google Processor (1)

vhogemann (797994) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649809)

If Google's need for server is as big as it appears, it makes sense to design and build custom servers for themselves. But my gess is that they'll be following the Sun Niagara architeture, with multi-core/multi-processor designs.

My point, Google doesn't need raw performance, they need an architeture that scales well, supports lots of concurrent requests, and consumes very little power to make cluster mantaining costs less expensive. Well, thinking this way, at this point it looks like Google might buy Sun to get their Niagara processor ;-)

In the end, I don't think such a processor would be seen on a desktop computer.

Silicon? Yes. CPUs? Maybe. (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649154)

One of the advantages of the Opteron platform, as we saw recently, is that it is easy to plug in dedicated, specialised, coprocessors. I wouldn't be at all surprised if a lot of Google's work could be done more efficiently on a specialised stream processor; even things like SSL for gmail etc. run a lot faster (and much faster-per-watt, which is what really counts in an operation that scale) on dedicated silicon than on a general purpose CPU.

Much as I'd like to see the Alpha return, backed by Google (or pretty much anyone else. The death of PALCode was a sad day for the industry), it doesn't seem likely. The Alpha approach was to build the fastest chip possible; in terms of performance-per-watt or performance-per-dollar, it didn't do so well.

More likely, it's Google DRM (1)

jkrise (535370) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649381)

Hardware is where DRM resides and operates. Why would Google buy DRM from HP, IBM or Dell? With all that talent at their disposal, Google would design their own brand of DRM... hell, even the chips and architecture... weeding out useless buses, registers and stuff.

We already know they use a modified Linux kernel... what better than using proprietary hardware as well? That way, they are free from the cluctches of Intel, AMD, ATI, NVidia, HP, IBM etc., besides Microsoft, Oracle and the software gorillas.

Re:Silicon? Yes. CPUs? Maybe. (3, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649390)

But then just how many specialized chips does one need? With personal computers it's getting a little out of hand. First we have graphics processors, and now physics processors. Oh, and we also have network cards that allow you to offload the entire TCP/IP stack to their own processors. Oh, and sound cards have hardware mixers, so you don't have to mix the sound in software on your general purpose CPU. Oh, and those video capture cards convert everything to mpeg in hardware, so you don't need your CPU for that either. All I need is a special processor for compiling code, and I could go right back to using a 486 as my main processor, since it wouldn't have anything to do anymore.

Re:Silicon? Yes. CPUs? Maybe. (1)

amjacobs (769757) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649442)

You say that like it's a bad thing...

Re:Silicon? Yes. CPUs? Maybe. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649595)

Yes, it is a bad thing, because a regular processor only costs $150. On the other hand a video card and a physics card and all the other cards you would need to run a computer this way would cost much more money.

Re:Silicon? Yes. CPUs? Maybe. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649683)

For you, this is not such a good idea. I would imagine that you, like most home users, barely use one CPU to capacity.

For Google, the sums are completely different. Every watt Google uses on a CPU costs them twice; once to turn it from electricity into heat (via computation) and another to extract and dissipate the hear. In California alone, the amount of power to be used by proposed data centres (i.e. those to be built this year) is over 10% of the power consumption of the entire state.

Any CPU owned by Google is likely to be running at 100% capacity a significant amount of the time. If you can use 10 custom chips instead of 100 Opterons, then the cost savings are going to be huge. Also, remember that these are in-house chip designs that are being proposed. The cost of making one chip is huge. The cost of making ten chips is exactly the same as the cost of making one. The cost of making one hundred is only very slightly more. If Google need a few tens of thousands, the numbers start looking a lot better. If they can sell a few hundred thousand more (at a 50% markup, of course), then this is even better; their costs go down, and their competitors are paying more for exactly the same thing.

Power management in datacentres is a huge research area; the International Conference on Autonomic Computing this year had an entire section dedicated to this field.

Re:Silicon? Yes. CPUs? Maybe. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649831)

First of all, I was talking about home computers, so my point still stands, but to counter your argument, here it goes. The processors they would be building wouldn't be on the same market as Opterons, Xeons, Althons, or Pentions. Unless they have the same instruction set as the others, or can be programmed in the same way, then I doubt that there would be a lot of people who would want to buy them. And if they were general purpose enough that they could be used then they probably wouldn't be that good for Google anyway. Maybe MS could make some use of these processors, but I don't think they would buy from Google. Or Maybe IBM. Wait they can make their own chips. I doubt that Google could make any money selling specialized processors that are fine tuned for their own needs. None of the console makers even make their own chips anymore, and they sell way more consoles then Google could ever hope to have servers in their datacentres.

Re:Silicon? Yes. CPUs? Maybe. (1)

DuckDodgers (541817) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650172)

I was going to jump in with the same point. Google's hired people from DEC and their primary concern in their data warehouses is undoubtedly performance and energy efficiency. It's very likely any innovation in either area that would be dramatically superior to the best offerings from Intel and AMD would not be x86-compatible.

Unless the chip was so outrageously fast that they could run an x86 emulator in it without a performance loss, it would be dead in the home and office PC market.

Or Google wants to release its own line of PCs with its own CPUs and their own Google Operating System. Not very likely.

Re:Silicon? Yes. CPUs? Maybe. (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650198)

Hardly. The trend has been fewer dedicated processors in recent years, not more. Sound cards rarely have hardware mixing anymore except at the high end, instead the operating system is expected to do it. Physics processors are too early to call but a bunch of people seem to think they aren't necessary given that video cards can do a lot of similar work. Modems lost a lot of their circuitry to software. Etc. The only real dedicated chip that came into its own lately is the GPU, and that's because it has a very different general structure to a CPU.

Boycott Google ;-) (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15649156)

Friends, remember that Google is the America hating empire [shelleytherepublican.com] .

This new wave of innovation probably uses Linux (created by a European communist) [shelleytherepublican.com] with a sordid history [shelleytherepublican.com] . No doubt this is part of an insiduous plot to destroy the valuable patents of The Sco Group.

Their so-called "inventions" have already led to a huge upturn in hacking, eponymously named "Google Hacking" [informit.com] . All true patriots must support tougher sentences [shelleytherepublican.com] for such evil terrorists [shelleytherepublican.com] .

Re:Boycott Google ;-) (1)

harris s newman (714436) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649188)

You might want to cut the pills in half until you see your doctor again...

Re:Boycott Google ;-) (5, Informative)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649249)

You might wish to develop a sense of humour and/or the ability to detect satire. Of course, the fact that shelleytherepublican can be mistaken for a real conservative blogger does cast an rather sad reflection on the state of political discourse in America.

Re:Boycott Google ;-) (2, Interesting)

killjoe (766577) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649276)

well seeing as how the republican bloggers are calling for the hunting down of the NY times reporters kids I'd say that it's pretty easy to get confuse shelley with a real republican. In many ways shelleytherepublican seems like a moderate republican when you read coulter, hannity, newsmax, free republic etc. At least I haven't herd her call for the hunting down of peoples kids.

Re:Boycott Google ;-) (1)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649519)

Parent does have a point ("it's pretty easy to get confuse shelley with a real republican" [sic]), and gpp is a bit harsh on the AC ggpp (who, I get the impression, did get the joke, but kept quiet about it thinking that others would too): it's more than a little worrying that not just a few, but most, comments on the linked shelleytherepublican item take the article dead seriously.

Re:Boycott Google ;-) (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649839)

seeing as how the republican bloggers are calling for

Damn. Irratible Monday morning peeve alert. To say "the republican bloggers" suggests that you think all of them are saying that, or that that's your impression. That's like when you see news saying "scientists agree with Al Gore" (as if there were none that don't), etc. There have to be some qualifiers in a statement like that. "Some republican bloggers..." makes you sound like a better observer of what's really happening. Otherwise, it would also make sense to say, "Democrat bloggers agree that we should allow Hugo Chavez to run US oil companies," or "Blogs show that non-Republicans back Streisand as new spokeswoman for the left."

I'm always bugged by such unqualified statements, since the audience for them will only bring their own perspective and fill in the qualifiers that most appeal to them, lacking an explicit one from the author.

That being said, the blog in question is more subtly funny than, say, Steven Colbert. He was funnier when he was just appearing occasionally on Stewart's show and was a bit more of a cypher for the casual viewer.

Re:Boycott Google ;-) (1)

locokamil (850008) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649369)

Is shelleytherepublican for real?

It seems too out of whack even for right wing nutters... the tragedy/frightening part is that you can't really tell if its a joke or not.

Re:Boycott Google ;-) (1)

Alexandra Erenhart (880036) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649730)

And to replace Google with Microsoft.... god you gotta be kidding me!

I for one... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15649170)

...welcome our new Google - Cyberdyne Systems overlords.

When will the Terminator-1 chip have been designed ?

Owning the supply chain (3, Insightful)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649171)

I don't think we should think of this as a move that Google may 'sell' the machines they make, aside from selling Google search or app appliances one day. The vast majority of chips they would be making are probably to 'own the supply chain' for their own massive server systems. This is similar in concept to the early Ford Motor Company that owned the steel mills, etc. Google just wants the lowest net cost per computing cycle, and if Dell wants to earn a profit selling them computers in bulk, it might be cheaper for Google to bring that profit in-house.

Re:Owning the supply chain (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649744)

There is a significant difference between steel and semiconductors; semiconductors cost less if you make more, steel is limited by the amount you can dig up from the ground. If Google were to make chips in-house that were useful to others, it would make sense for them to sell them:
  • If they make more, their costs go down.
  • If they sell some, they get an additional revenue stream.
  • If they are making the chips their competitors use, then they are always going to have lower costs, since they don't need to pay as much for the same hardware.
In many respects, this is the same principle as Open Source; things are cheaper if the developers are the users than if the developers are people who want to make money out of selling it.

Technology Incubator (4, Insightful)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649173)

I think they're just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks, much like VCs do. But their doing it all in-house, hoping to come up with the next big thing. And the thing after that.

Re:Technology Incubator (2, Insightful)

MoonFog (586818) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649184)

It could also be the media doing this and hoping a story sticks. After all, Google have really moved into many different areas, so perhaps a journalist is going "why not?" and prints a rumour, wouldn't surprise me at all.

Given Google's obvious love for thinking "outside the box" they have a higher chance of something sticking than with for example Yahoo.

Re:Technology Incubator (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649210)

Maybe part of Google's business plan is to try and disrupt the business plan. =)

Re:Technology Incubator (1)

Angostura (703910) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649307)

Particularly since this story [bbc.co.uk] is all about how Google intends to remain focussed on search:

"Our position is that search is a very hard problem. We have still a lot of work to do," said Douglas Merrill, who looks after internal engineering...Mr Merrill said 70% of the company's activities remained focused on search.

Re:Technology Incubator (3, Interesting)

l3v1 (787564) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649254)

I think they're just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks, much like VCs do. But their doing it all in-house, hoping to come up with the next big thing. And the thing after that.

Well, if you want to innovate, or research, you have to do that. VCs don't do that, they just hope that the pack of people they give money won't just waste that money but actually come up with an idea that sticks to that wall. In-house research is not comparable with what VCs do with startups which usually base their entire future on one idea and if that fails, they fail. In research every idea that you prove is a failure is in fact a success since it gives you valueable knowledge and experience which you can use in the next trials if you have the money for it, and well, they have the money.

Re:Technology Incubator (1)

muhgcee (188154) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649608)

Seeing if a chip fabrication plant sticks seems to me to be extremely expensive. If they were to make their own chips, I would guess it would be a bit more well-thought out, and not just someone's 20% project, which is where most of their new products seem to come from.

well duh (1)

scenestar (828656) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649190)

It was part of a university to begin with.

BBC says: Google to remain focused on search (3, Informative)

joab_son_of_zeruiah (580903) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649193)

Re:BBC says: Google to remain focused on search (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649233)

But do bear in mind this site's slogan : "Slashdot -- unsourced speculation about Google, stuff that matters"

Re:BBC says: Google to remain focused on search (1)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649273)

I guess their focus is just very wide

Google OS (1)

theaddkid.com (983011) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649227)

Google is an innovator in many ways and I believe this may scare the most unoriginal Software company ever Microsoft, we can only hope there is a Google OS coming soon!

Re:Google OS (0, Redundant)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649637)

but will it run Linux?

Re:Google OS (2, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649719)

No, the biggest question is, "Will it run microsoft software transparently?"

If I could pop Ubuntu onto my workstations and leverage my existing five-figure investment in MS-only software (hey, I'm only a three person shop), I'd seriously consider taking the plunge. WGA scares the shit out of me, and I'm fully legal from top to bottom. Two to three days of downtime on just one of my machines at the wrong time could cost me my paycheck for the month, and a lost client or two. I bristle at the possibility that I could be forced to pay for a $300 XPpro license just to keep my shop open if WGA makes a mistake - but given the choice between $300 and $3000 in lost revenue to sort the problem out and get reauthorized, you can bet I'll end up grabbing my ankles for Bill and Co. Sad, but true. Prevent that scenario, and I'd be a happy camper.

Re:Google OS (1)

takeaslash (976090) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650497)

> but will it run Linux? Why? Does it really matter? I am sure google might look at the TCO first, and then pick what the OS they need. It most likely come down to the cheapest and most easily scalable OS for whatever CPU design they use. It maybe Linux, but really who gives a toss.

This kind of thing that keeps us loving google (2, Interesting)

chrisrx (945226) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649232)

I think google is just an amazing company, they hire some of the worlds top developers, build their own servers and apparently their own cpus now just to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Couple that with froogle, google maps and google earth, summer of code and submission of code back to open source projects such as wine. It's a shame that there aren't more companies like google that do everything they can to put their customers first and their profits later.

Re:This kind of thing that keeps us loving google (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15649266)

Bullshit. Customers come first only if they bring in profits. Non-profiting customers are not worth being in the business for.

No-one runs a company to provide free meals. That is what the tax slurping, revenue leaking government of the US of A is for ...

Re:This kind of thing that keeps us loving google (1)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649274)

It's a shame that there aren't more companies like google that do everything they can to put their customers first and their profits later.
Generally, those companies that produce what the market wants do OK in terms of profits also. Google is certainly no exception.

I think their challenge will be to stay true to their beliefs if they have a few disappointing quarters. The way they are going right now, they have a real shot at meeting their founders' extravagent ambition of changing the world.

Re:This kind of thing that keeps us loving google (1)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649532)

I think google is just an amazing company, ...
It's a shame that there aren't more companies like google ...

I guess the main reason this hasn't been modded "-1, Shill" is that there hasn't so far been a tradition of people shilling for Google.

Re:This kind of thing that keeps us loving google (1)

muhgcee (188154) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649618)

apparently their own cpus now

Is it, indeed, aparent? I didn't think it was very clear at all.

Re:This kind of thing that keeps us loving google (4, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649639)

Umm....
Hey I like Google and I do think it is a good company but please throw in a few facts along with the extreme cheering.
1. They make a ton of money. I.E. profits from advertising. I will admit that it is some of the least offensive advertising in the planet but they are ads none the less.
2. Their search engine is closed source. Yep you got it baby cakes every bit as closed source as Microsoft Office and Windows.
3. China.

As I said, I like Google. I would work for them if they offered me a job. They are not perfect and frankly we are not their customers! We are no more their customers than wheat is a farmers customers. They harvest us and sell us to their advertisers. The people that buy Google ads are Google's customers.
We are Google's product.

What's bad about Google being a broker? (2, Insightful)

KWTm (808824) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650690)

Hey I like Google and I do think it is a good company but please throw in a few facts along with the extreme cheering.

Okay, you agree that Google is a good company, but now you are going to tell us some ways in which Google is bad, so that overall Google is not as good as we may think. I'm listening.

1. They make a ton of money. I.E. profits from advertising. I will admit that it is some of the least offensive advertising in the planet but they are ads none the less.

So, they profit a lot from ads. I was expecting something bad. Is there something inherently bad about ads? I find ads in general to be obtrusive and annoying, but Google's ads are not. Is it more an ideological stance against ads? (I'm assuming that the thing that's bad is the ads, not the making a ton of money.)

2. Their search engine is closed source. Yep you got it baby cakes every bit as closed source as Microsoft Office and Windows.

That comparison is so off-base! You're comparing apples to religious denominations. "Closed source" and "open source" would apply if they were distributing the software (as in "Microsoft Office and Windows"), but Google isn't distributing their search engine. You're using the negative connotations of "closed source" to create a misleading impression.
You might as well be saying, "John hasn't worked a single day in his life, pays no taxes, and yet lives in daily comfort getting thousands of dollars in government spending." "Really? Who's John?" "My twelve-year-old cousin."

(And don't call me baby cakes.)

3. China.

Wrong.
See? I, too, can make one-word dogmatic pronouncements. The morality of Google's actions in China are hotly debated here on Slashdot and elsewhere. Since you don't bother to qualify your one-word non-sentence, I won't qualify mine.

They are not perfect and frankly we are not their customers! We are no more their customers than wheat is a farmers customers. They harvest us and sell us to their advertisers. The people that buy Google ads are Google's customers.

Here again, you imply, without explanation something inherently bad about the situation. So what if we are not their customers?

I think of Google as a broker: they profit by connecting us to what we need. Just as a real estate agent connects you to the sellers of your dream home (hey, you the buyer are not the real estate agent's customer!) or a headhunter connects you to that job you've been looking for, so Google connects us to the information we need. This is one connection, but they don't directly profit from it. The other connection is that they connect their advertisers to us. They do profit from this.

It sounds like you are opposed to them "harvest[ing] us and sell[ing] us to their advertisers", but Google only profits when you follow their offered links. You have a choice about whether to use Google as a search engine, and even when you do, you have a choice about whether to follow their offered links.

It's like you're saying, "Damn, I asked the real estate agent to find me a decent house, and she did! I mean, those agents just harvest us house buyers and sell them en masse to the sellers! Damn those real estate agents for doing what we ask!"

I agree that Google is not perfect, but nowhere in your posting do you say why you think so.

Re:This kind of thing that keeps us loving google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15649764)

Huh? "and apparently their own cpus now"

There is no sign whatsoever that Google will begin to design and manufacture(?) CPUs.

Big plans - big resources (1)

badevlad (929181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649277)

As Google grows and start giant projects (like Google Earth) it requires more and more resources. It is natural if they start building own computers, it will be the base for new projects. I like Google because they are not afraid of global large-scale projects.

Investing that pile of cash (4, Insightful)

Jeppe Salvesen (101622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649305)

Google appear to be investing their pile of cash in a very interesting way: They encourage their engineers to spend 20 percent [wikipedia.org] of their time on unrelated work. Since they have some really bright heads in their workforce, they can be said to re-investing their pile of cash into ideas formed by their own employees. You know - all those half-baked, half-related ideas you get when you work on a project: They actually give you time and resources to refine and pursue them. And guess what - some of them turn out to be viable business ideas for the company. So, from a human-resources point-of-view, it's a stroke of genious. They realize more of the potential within their work-force.


They also probably reduce thebrain-drain of their talented employees - since working on Google must be very, very rewarding for someone with an imaginative mind but not a lot of organizational know-how.

Re:Investing that pile of cash (1)

Tsagadai (922574) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650813)

Google appear to be investing their pile of cash in a very interesting way: They encourage their engineers to spend 20 percent of their time on unrelated work.
Boy I wish someone would pay me to read slashdot. Hey you know what, I'm at work someone already is!

Re:Investing that pile of cash (1)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650865)

Don't fool yourself. It's just a way for Google to own anything their employees do in their off-hours. 80% of a 50 hour week is still 40 hours, and you get the other 148 hours for free.

Other companies just put it in the employment agreement, but Google makes people feel good about signing over their soul.

Brilliant. Now THAT is innovation.
-

You're forgetting one Manufacturer (4, Interesting)

hcob$ (766699) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649345)

Google may be 'the world's fourth-largest maker of computer servers, after Dell, Hewlett-Packard and I.B.M.'.
You're forgetting one Manufacturer: the NSA.

Re:You're forgetting one Manufacturer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15649386)

The NSA don't make their own machines anymore, in a fascist state corporations become an integral part of the machinery of government. The NSA outsourced all their IT a few years back, to the horror of long time employees. Can't remember where I read about this, cryptome may be a good place to start looking.

Fourth largest? (1)

pedantic bore (740196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649352)

Very unlikely, with these numbers. Unless you mean perhaps "a distant fourth."

IBM had server sales of more than five billion dollars [itjungle.com] last year (or three billion, if you don't count mainframes). Even lowly Sun beats out Dell [com.com] , which comes in at almost $1B.

Keep in mind that this is just for one year. Pick your favorite guess for how large Googles server farm is and divide by the average age of those machines. Do you still think they're assembling more than a billion dollars of hardware per year?

Re:Fourth largest? (1)

William Robinson (875390) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649404)

Yeah.. sounds doubtful. Even if you account for the desktops for employees. They have close to 5700 employees [google.com] . 1000$ per desktop might cost them less than 6 million dollars.

Can Google invent AI? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15649355)

Can Google [visitware.com] become an artificial intelligence [artilectworld.com] ?
Google certainly has the data to whet the appetite of an AI Mind [blogcharm.com] , but first Google would need an AI Engine such as Mind.Forth [sourceforge.net] to impose order on the data, so that Google would not just store the data but would know the web of data.
Maybe Google will trigger a Technological Singularity [blogcharm.com] .

The chip business.. (2, Insightful)

StaticFish (839708) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649391)

Is it just me, or does the microprocessor business seem a REALLY bad one to get into right now. Maybe 30, 20 or even 10 years ago, it wouldn't have been such a bad option. But with Intel and AMD going forward in this perpetual juggernaught race, it seems like anyone getting into this business is Dead On Arrival. Transmeta Corp anyone? Dan

Re:The chip business.. (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649567)

this would only matter if they plan to sell their processors to the public. if it's an inhouse supply chain they are developing then its not an issue. but it could be they have a need for something new and unique, rather than an x86 clone, since they have ready supply of those anyway. and if they do build something new and unique that other people have a use for, then perhaps they could market it externally.

Re:The chip business.. (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650100)

Well, I understand they need a big server upgrade and could use one of those ultra low power*, quantum partial event horizon processors, that actually executes orders BEFORE they reach the processor's memory bank. allowing a double write of the original data and the answer instantly at an infinite* rate of processing :)

* the power is directly proportional to the number of simultaneous particles being processed.

So really all of existance could be processed in a single instant with sufficient mater to energy conversion. Not, that we'd be able to retrieve the data, but we could retrieve the last X GoogleBytes of the data calculated if we stopped it short of actual completion.

Re:The chip business.. (1)

uarch (637449) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650590)

Is it just me, or does the microprocessor business seem a REALLY bad one to get into right now. Maybe 30, 20 or even 10 years ago, it wouldn't have been such a bad option. But with Intel and AMD going forward in this perpetual juggernaught race, it seems like anyone getting into this business is Dead On Arrival. Transmeta Corp anyone? Dan
"Chip buisness" can mean anything. Don't automatically assume its CPUs.

Next from Googlle... (1)

MancunianMaskMan (701642) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649429)

The Google Alpha Beta

Google is the best tech, not search, company (1)

Abrax (981838) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649494)

Everyone is foolish in only seeing the search aspect of Google. The reason search is so prevalent on our minds is that Google took advantage of the greatest tech out of the gate, unlike MS, and made it the best first. Now they have time to focus on everything. We have to reevaluate our views on technology from desktop centric to the Network like Sun says. Google made sure search was done right first as it is the most important technology Google is the phone company! It's great they are creating chips with Sun hopefully open source as I would think they are using the Sun Spark program. The future looks bright.

Re:Google is the best tech, not search, company (1)

Abrax (981838) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649521)

I guess you could also say we wouldn't have the cell phone or laptop without Bill Gates since he used BASIC to get the mainframe in the office, with others help as well though, but I still think search is the most importent. Since it is pure AI.

An idea I've suggested (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649524)

Google assembles the majority of the hardware it uses...

On several occasions I've suggested to customers that they consider building their own servers. Going by the look on their face you'd think I'd just asked directions to Mars. I'll usually let them ba-humbug the idea for a while before informing them that Google does it and always has. That usually gets them started asking questions instead of telling me why it's such a bad idea.

That wouldn't work for most companies, but if they've got a technology core group that's big enough or if they're a tech oriented company, it's the most flexible way to go and not that much more work. Some standard box configurations and parts lists keeps all the components working together.

I wouldn't even consider buying a server for my own stuff. If there were an ATX type standard for laptops, I'd build those as well.

Re:An idea I've suggested (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15649593)

I would never consider buying a pre assembled computer for myself. But on the converse I would never under any circumstances advise my customers to build there own hardware. The nightmare that is part end of life, driver hell and the general supply issues involved is not worth it for the majority of businesses. Google assembles thousands upon thousands of servers every year. Even the government department I consult to only does around 5000 servers a year. For the cost of pre assembled blades and servers nowadays there is simply no cost saving in building them yourself unless you are doing in the 10's of thousand.

Re:An idea I've suggested (1)

muhgcee (188154) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649680)

I'd say if it is a small office, you don't want to build your own. If you have one or two servers, I think it'd be smart to let someone else support your hardware.

Now if you have 30 identical servers, it is probably a good idea to build your own. That way, even if you have to spend 20 hours one week diagnosing a hardware problem, you can apply it to all 30 machines. A lot more efficient than the work that would go into one or two machines.

Driad? (1)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649878)

WTF is "Driad", Gates claims it's Microsoft's answer to MapReduce?

Also, sadly the article does not mention that Google runs almost entirely on Linux. There's room for a couple of Bill Gates quotes on how Microsoft's solutions are better, but no mention of the fact that Google has no need for any of them.

Thin Clients (2, Insightful)

barry_the_bogan (976779) | more than 8 years ago | (#15649904)

What is Google doing with Sun?

Internet based word processing and spreadsheets, email on the internet, a google service for everything else... It wouldn't surprise me if the next generation of personal computers are nothing more than a SunRay type thin client plugged into the internet, Sun helps with the hardware and google services will do the rest... it seems to be the vision of both companies...

Re:Thin Clients (1)

takeaslash (976090) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650322)

Maybe google likes the only open source (and GPL) CPU out there. The scary thing is that it a much better webserver/appserver than anything that intel, ibm, or AMD are putting out in the next couple of years. Don't think for a minute that google is tied to x86 code. They are a big fan of java, thus they are free to move to the platform that suits them best. P.S. Sun Rays are extremely cool. Unfortunately on people have used thme for some time would truely understand why the PC model is crap.

Google's Biggest Expense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15650222)

One thing I noticed that no one even thought of as a reason is the biggest single expense google has. It's called Electricity and if they can design a cpu for their file servers that is as efficient as the Via Epia/Nemiha chips 2watts, they'd save lots of money that can then go towards other needs.

Now I'll make a blind guess as to what percentage of Googles income goes towards electricity: At least 25% of the income Google makes goes towards electricty consumption. Now if you estimate that 80% of googles consumption id related to their servers, what happens if you reduce that demand by 50-75-80%? Now you're talking a serious release of cash flow that can be used for what ever they want.

Now the $0.23 cents question: Is it worthwhile for google to design their own chip? Nothing says they have to manufacture it, just design it and I'd bet AMD/Intel/Motorola/IBM/Samsun/Toshiba and any other chip manufacturer could fabricate the damn things. So they'b be idiots to build their own fabrication plant, just contract out to have it manufactured to someone who's got the facilities and have an NDA with ironbound contract to back it up.

So assembling computers makes you an inventor? (1)

epp_b (944299) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650251)

Cool! I'm an inventor! Yeehaw!

I predicted (1)

peterfa (941523) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650271)

I knew it! Of course, we all did. I knew Google was going to get into computer sales sooner or later. I wonder when they're coming out with their Linux distro... you know it's coming.

Vertical integration (1)

suffe (72090) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650564)

It's rather interesting to see all the economic geniuses get together here on Slashdot and tell the world just how good their plans are. Integrate this, expand or die, etc. Is this new thinking? No. Has it been tried before? Yes. Most successfull as a whole is perhaps the Japanese Keiratsus (or how ever you spell that). Conglomerates in other words. How many of those do you see these days in the western world? How many are profitable? GE could be held as an example of success until lately. Don't quote me on it, but I seem to remember them strugling with losses as well now. What about the Japanes then? Well, they are slowly getting around to it as well. Not by choice I'd say, but dragged to the conclution by economic reality.

If you read nothing else in this post, at least read this.
The thing that most people don't get is the fact that you can integrate vertically until you are blue in the face, you still have the exact (more or less) same demands for ROC. The logical error goes something like this: If google owns the CPU manufactoring part as well then they can buy the CPUs at cost. NOT TRUE. I'll say that again in case anyone missed it. NOT TRUE. You see, the investors, whos money google would use to build this business, will have the same demands on interest as the investors that let AMD play with their money. You can pretend that you can buy "at cost" but it is never possible. In the end it always catches up with you.
Now you can stop reading.

Sure, there are economies of scale and such. Those are much better put to use by integrating horizontally though. And that has a nasty tendency to hurt consumers down the road.

The same goes for "expand to new areas or die". Sure, that is true. The thing is though, do we want a company to survive if they are not profitable? Why not have two companies that each do A and B respectively instead of one that does both A and B. As can be seen with Microsoft (since it's a good topic to bring up at Slashdot) there is little point in having one area subcidizing another area. Let the investors put half their money in company A and half in company B instead of having it all in the same company. Worst case scenario is that you do AS WELL as a combined company. Again, that is worst case scenario. There can only be better. Stop getting so attached to company names, because that is all they are. Names! The people in them come and go, the name remains. Who here has started to hate certain parts of Google because they now have MS execs? I'd bet none. Why? No reason!

GPU = Google Processing Unit (2, Interesting)

j.leidner (642936) | more than 8 years ago | (#15650658)

If Google indeed decides to get involved in hardware (or software that gets compiled into hardware), I welcome the decision, and joyfully look forward to any innovations that they might come up with.

Maybe one day we have a GPU (Google Processing Uni) inside our PCs that has special hardware support for indexing, retrieval and text processing in general. Independently of Google or any particular vendor, the theoretical question that intrigues me is: what operations would you like to have built in to aid the search business?

PageRank in microcode? Porter stemmer as an assembler instruction?

For several decades, CPU design has been driven mostly by traditional numerical concerns. While ranking algorithms certainly are based on numerical principles as well, it remains to be investigated whether there are operations that are worth providing at hardware level, or (more likely) completely new architectures.

Note that their MapReduce paradigm of parallel data processing is close to data flow machines in some sense, and while these were not a success at the time, times have changed (it's always a question of boundary conditions).

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