Google Shows Data Center Security Following Facebook Open Compute

Google provides a sneak peek at its Moncks Corner, S.C., data center's security practices, showing both the physical and virtual security measures used to protect user data.

Google April 22 touted the security of its data center operations, offering the computing world a rare glimpse of the physical security and data-protection schemes employed in its data center operations.

The search engine produced this video, shot at its Moncks Corner, S.C., facility, one of dozens of data centers Google had built around the world to host consumer and customer data generated by its search and Google Apps collaboration software.

Search, Google Maps and other Web services are free, but Google charges $50 per user, per year for the more secure enterprise-grade Google Apps for Business.

The data created by these services is hosted on thousands of custom-built Google servers running a bare-bones version of Linux.

Access to the data centers itself is tightly controlled; there are no public tours or site visits. Even employee access is restricted to necessary personnel. Google also uses security fencing, security guards are on point 24/7 and several digital security cameras are used to watch the data centers.

Special badges are the norm, but some data centers also practice biometric security via retinal camera scans.

The video is striking because, as Google noted, access to its data centers is "tightly restricted." Google has always locked up its data centers to keep rivals from gleaning information about its cloud-computing infrastructure, thus gaining a competitive advantage.

The media has juxtaposed the data center video with Facebook's Open Compute project, in which the company open sourced its data center hardware and schematics earlier this month.

Facebook's move was an open-source olive branch to the computing community at large, but it was also a calculated play to urge the creation of less expensive, commodity servers.

Google's video tour is an educational play designed to assure enterprises and federal agencies considering a Google Apps collaboration software contract of its stringent data security.

Government contracts are especially popular since the U.S. government declared its intent to move to cloud-computing systems more than a year ago.

Google and Microsoft jousted over cloud collaboration contracts for such agencies as the General Services Administration, and the Department of Interior. Google secured the GSA deal and is suing to block Microsoft from getting the $59 million contract.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has done what it could to paint Google as a liar over its government-security education.

With this video, Google can show prospective buyers in business and government alike how seriously it treats the customer data it hosts.

Google in the past couple of years has also worked on the software side to shore up data security, adding two-step verification, default https encryption, attachment viewing and mobile-device management in the browser, among other data-protection perks.

"For the 3 million businesses that have gone Google and the thousands more that join them every day, these features help ensure that their data is kept safe," said Adam Swidler, senior manager for Google Enterprise.

The data center video should also help reassure concerned businesses.