Most  cloud companies are highly secretive about the data centers that power the cloud, on the theory that the less information you share, the harder it will be for miscreants to mess around with them. Most are reluctant to let even customers visit, but Google just broke with tradition big-time by putting a virtual reality tour of its data center at The Dalles, Oregon right on YouTube.  

Like everything Google does, the virtual tour is super-cool. You're led through the facility by developer and Google Cloud advocate Sandeep Dinesh, and also get to meet several of the engineers who keep this corner of Google's cloud up and running. Because this is a virtual reality tour, you can click on a little controller at the top left corner of the screen to look all around you in all directions for 360 degrees, as well as up and down. But of course, as the video alerts you at the start, the tour is best viewed through virtual reality goggles, such as Google Cardboard.

The coolness continues as Dinesh leads you inside the building and he and his colleagues systematically address every issue an IT team might have with the public cloud. Security? We watch as he goes through Google's elaborate security gate, which imprisons visitors in a Plexiglas cylinder while it scans their retinas--only one of several identity checks you have to clear before going inside.

Capacity? Dinesh points out the many fiber cables running through the data center's racks of servers and one of his engineer colleagues notes that Google's cloud network of connected servers is actually growing more quickly than the Internet itself. Data leakage? He dons goggles and visits a frightening room where used disks are shredded so that the information contained in them can never, ever be recovered. Carbon footprint? He visits the facility's cooling area where water running through miles of pipes absorbs the heat created by constantly working servers, and then dissipates some of that heat to the atmosphere in the form of steam--the cloud making clouds, as he puts in. Finally, another colleague notes that the facility is carbon neutral, drawing the power it needs from nearby hydroelectric plants--since the company was smart enough to locate its facility on the banks of the Columbia River.

The video was launched to coincide with Google's Compute Summit in San Francisco, which begins today. Because it specifically addresses the issues that IT leaders at large companies typically cite when vetoing a move to the cloud, it's clearly the most recent of many bids on Google's part to bring in more big enterprise customers, such as the recently signed-on Spotify

Does this new focus on big customers mean Google's cloud services for small businesses and solopreneurs will start getting neglected? Unknown. In the meantime, here's Dinesh's tour of Google's The Dalles facility. Oh, and if you're wondering how the heck to pronounce "The Dalles"--it appears to be a matter of some debate.

Published on: Mar 30, 2016
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.