A new podcast explores the unseen world of data centers

Do you ever wonder where it all comes from? The words you’re reading right now, the music you stream or the program your kids use to do their homework? All that stuff can’t be just floating around in space … can it? The internet has to live somewhere, right? 

Right. Every click you make online reaches across vast distances to retrieve information from racks of powerful computers inside some of the most secure buildings in the world. And then whatever you’re seeking appears in an instant. Even for the people who keep the machines running, the process feels like nothing short of magic. These buildings—where the Internet lives—are called data centers. Each data center exists in a real place, operated by real people in communities like Bridgeport, Alabama and Changhua County, Taiwan.

An animated GIF showing the logo of Where the Internet Lives.

Even at Google, only about one percent of employees ever get to set foot inside a data center. So to demystify these warehouse-scale computing facilities, a small team of Googlers and I spent the last year exploring them. Through the process, we got to know the people who design, build, operate and secure these buildings. We connected with outside experts and community members whose lives intersect with this infrastructure that keeps the digital economy moving. And today, we’re releasing the result of all this work: a new six-episode podcast called Where the Internet Lives.

As you listen, you’ll get a rare glimpse behind the walls and through multiple layers of security, literally going inside the machines that power the internet, guided by the people who keep them humming.

Along the way, you’ll learn how data centers work, what they mean to the communities that host them, the reasons data centers are some of the most secure buildings in the world and how efforts to operate data centers on 24/7 clean energy are transforming electrical grids across the globe.

Subscribe to the podcast now to be transported—at nearly the speed of light—to Where the Internet Lives. 

Click through the images below to read episode descriptions and take a peek at the engineering marvels that are today’s data centers.

  • A photograph of the interior of a data center.

    Nearly five billion people use the internet, but how many could tell you where it lives? In episode one, we explore what data centers are—and how they keep the internet going, even when events like COVID-19 trigger historic surges in traffic. 

  • A Google employee working inside a data center with a laptop and headphones.

    Data centers are some of the most secure buildings on the planet. In episode two, we invite you to step inside and take a tour with one of Google’s top engineers. As we venture into computer systems that connect the world, we meet the people who keep these warehouse-scale machines running. Plus, a little-known story about the scrappy origins of Google’s first computers. 

  • A photo taken from the air of a Google data center, showing multiple large buildings.

    How do data centers intersect with the communities they call home? What kinds of jobs do they create, and what do residents think of having a big computer in their backyard? In episode three, we hear what happens when the industrial economy meets the digital economy in communities across the globe. 

  • An aerial photograph of solar panels as part of an electrical power plant.

    What would it take to run data centers on clean electricity, everywhere, every hour of the day? In episode four, we look at the evolution of data center energy use in a world confronting the threat of climate change—and explore promising ideas that could fuel a carbon-free future. 

  • A photograph showing multiple security gates outside a Google data center.

    Power outages? Hurricanes? Wildfires? Zombies? Google’s data centers have to keep operating in even the most unexpected of circumstances. In episode five, we meet the security and operations experts responsible for the multi-layered systems that keep the internet secure. 

  • Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai stands near quantum computing equipment.

    For 50 years, computer performance has improved exponentially while the cost of computing has plummeted. But this phenomenal “Moore’s Law” trend has begun to slow down. What does it mean for data centers and what lies ahead? In our final episode, we peer into the future of technology—from machine learning to quantum computing—and explore the next chapter in the story of the physical internet.

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