Google’s First Production Server Rack, Circa 1998

Google's first production server rack, circa 1998
Google’s first production server rack, circa 1998

Hard to believe, but a mere “fifteen years ago….” this little Frankenstein rack was the heart and soul of Google’s entire operation… at least for a minute or two

One recent rainy night when the home shopping network was showing re-runs, I stumbled across this:

There’s plenty of light reading in there if you feel you want to melt your own brain. But what immediately caught my attention was the photo: “Google’s first production server rack, circa 1998.” The fact that it’s a high-resolution image makes it even more fun because you can see quite a bit of detail. I’m not much of a hardware guy, so I won’t even begin to talk about that twisty-curvy menagerie of RJ-45 cables that go from top-to-bottom and left-to-right, but as you can see, this little pile of moving parts was “doing something.”

It’s amazing to think that a mere 15 years ago, this was the heart of Google. I don’t know how many people were actually using Google search in 1998, but someone was. And that someone (and I’m sure plenty of others) hit this server. If you look at the specs, you’ll find some pretty serious beefcake for 1998, but in hindsight, amazingly low-tech by today’s standards.

From the WikiPedia Page:

  • Sun Ultra II with dual 200 MHz processors, and 256 MB of RAM.
  • 2 × 300 MHz Dual Pentium II Servers, they included 512 MB of RAM and 10 × 9 GB hard drives between the two.
  • F50 IBM RS/6000 donated by IBM, included 4 processors, 512 MB of memory and 8 × 9 GB hard drives.
  • Two additional boxes included 3 × 9 GB hard drives and 6 x 4 GB hard drives respectively
  • IBM disk expansion box with another 8 × 9 GB hard drives.
  • Homemade disk box which contained 10 × 9 GB SCSI hard drive.

Just a quick glance over those details and you get the impression that considering this was 1998, this little jimmy was put together by some pretty clever folks. It’s starting, and a little surreal, to realize that the internet has been around long enough for terms like “ten years ago…” and “fifteen years ago…” to be tossed about. Needless to say, Google has gone on to take over the world, and most folks use it for their searches (or at least plenty of folks do).