The rise of cloud computing has prompted many businesses to debate and discuss - both internally and publicly - their data storage plans. Arguably this is a change from the longstanding practice to guard with great secrecy these plans, particularly when it comes to building data centers.
This secrecy and what may be a trend toward more openness is the subject of a story in the The Dalles Chronicle, a local newspaper serving the The Dalles, Oregon, the site of one of Google's many data centers. The story is "a study in contrasts," and examines the ongoing secrecy surrounding the Dalles facility with the more open approach that Facebook is taking with its data center under construction in Prineville, Oregon.
The Public Secrets of Google's Data Center in The Dalles
The Chronicle story examines several years of correspondence between Google and local and state officials charged with making sure Google had fulfilled all its obligations relating to building in an enterprise zone, an agreement that allows companies to forgo paying taxes on any facilities they build in certain rural areas for up to 15 years. Many of these documents, according to The Chronicle, point a frustration among government officials trying to verify Google had fulfilled its obligations, pointing to the company's "extreme secrecy." Reporter Theodoric Meyer writes that the correspondence between officials contends "that any information provided could not be revealed to the public, despite the public nature of the enterprise zone agreements. The correspondence suggests that city officials found this claim somewhat dubious."
Facebook, the article contends, has taken a very different approach, attempting to be more open and involved with the community in which the data center is being built. The page on Facebook, for example, tracks the progress of the construction. According to Ken Patchett, data center's operations manager - hired away from Google's data center in The Dalles by Facebook, "When I came to Google, they really hadn't fully understood the ramifications of moving into a rural community," he said. "If you build a data center in downtown Atlanta or New York City, nobody cares." Patchett has reached out to the Prineville community, speaking to local civic groups about the ramifications of having the data center in the community.
Facebook and Community Outreach in Prineville
But while the Chronicle article touts Facebook's openness, it does note that the company has kept some information private, refusing to discuss the project's costs or its potential energy consumption. And despite some of the sour feelings towards Google in The Dalles, the company has made strong efforts to reshape how data centers are built, particularly in terms of energy efficiency.
The article does admit that Google has "done a lot of good" for The Dalles, with local hires and donations to community projects. But the company's unwillingness to make some information public may have prevented it from cultivating the same sort of relationship with the locals that Facebook is now tryiing to forge with Prineville. "This is not cloak-and-dagger secrecy here," Patchett said. "That's one of the biggest things that we've learned versus some other data centers that have been built. Be open."