The first time I got seriously Googled was about 18 months ago.
It was my first press conference at the Googleplex, the Mountain View, Calif., headquarters of the Internet search giant. I knew Google was big, but I had never felt in my gut the excitement the company could generate.
On the day I happened to visit--and on many others since--I witnessed people coming and going, sometimes by the busload, to multiple gatherings at different corners of the complex. Crossing the campus, I had chance encounters with Internet pioneer Vint Cerf in his trademark three-piece suit, the CEO of a sensor network startup with demo-in-hand and small groups of young Googlers having impassioned discussions. In short, it was a happenin' place.
At the press conference, I casually bumped into an engineer who helped design Google's servers. He told me about the company's push for 12-volt-only power supplies. Since then I've made a hobby of pursuing a story on the secretive Google server design.
I never got far. As a reporter I sometimes think of Google as a black hole. Email and vmail requests go in and are never heard from again. Sometimes terse auto-replies come back, eerie echoes of "no comment" from the Googleblack.
So I was excited earlier this year to attend a panel discussion that included a senior technologist from Google hosted by eBay Labs. (Yes, Virginia, Web 2.0 companies have research groups!) The Google executive mentioned University of California, Berkeley, professor Randy Katz had done a sabbatical there, and I saw my opening.
In an interview for this week's issue, Katz was quick to point out he was a Googler in the summer of 2006 and hadn't been back since. Still, he made many keen observations from his time there and holds a few pointed questions about how the company has evolved.
Does it indeed have as many as a million servers humming away in its data centers?