Google’s Servers, Behind the Great Firewall

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Many hosting companies are interested in the huge market of users in China. But most have been reluctant to physically locate data centers on the Chinese mainland due to concerns about the government’s policies on Internet monitoring and censorship. Instead, most hosting and colocation companies have opted to place their data centers in the region in Hong Kong or Singapore.

Several recent examples: Among cloud computing companies expanding in the region, Salesforce.com (CRM) opened a new data center in Singapore, while Rackspace (RAX) chose to expand in Hong Kong.

The location issue is likely to remain relevant in the wake of Google’s disclosure last night that it may be forced to shut down its operations in China. Google cited “a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China” in announcing its plans to review its Google.cn operations.

Google doesn’t say much about its data centers, but has acknowledged that it houses its servers for Google.cn inside China, behind the “Great Firewall” of monitoring and filtering. “In order to enter China, we needed to comply with the Chinese laws, which means our servers need to be located in China and that our content, our search results, would be filtered, per local law and regulation,” Google’s Kai-Fu Lee told PBS in 2008.

‘Not An Assault on Cloud Computing’
In its announcement last night, Google did not address the geography of the attacks, saying only that it has “already used information gained from this attack to make infrastructure and architectural improvements that enhance security for Google and for our users.” The Google Enterprise Blog indicated that the attack did not target physical server infrastructure, but was a malware-based effort to target Google accounts.

“This was not an assault on cloud computing,” wrote Dave Girouard, the President, Google Enterprise. “It was an attack on the technology infrastructure of major corporations in sectors as diverse as finance, technology, media, and chemical. The route the attackers used was malicious software used to infect personal computers. Any computer connected to the Internet can fall victim to such attacks. While some intellectual property on our corporate network was compromised, we believe our customer cloud-based data remains secure.”

There were reports of a “lockdown” of Internet data centers in China during the Beijing Olympics in 2008, with customers reportedly unable to access their equipment in non-emergency scenarios.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. rommel

    a lockdown prior and during an important event such as the olympics is a normal event for telcos and other providers of communications infrastructure. this should come as no surprise to those who are familiar with the industry. this is not only true in china; it is also true in other countries as well. prior to the event, telcos and their service/content providers are required to make sure that all systems (hardware, software, etc.) are stable and that back-up systems are ready in case any of the primary systems fail during the event. some people call it "lockdown", others call it "network freeze". at any rate, it only means that no one can make changes to the equipment, software, etc. during the freeze. this is to ensure that once a system is running, no one can make changes that may cause the system or parts of it to fail. the network freeze is normally lifted after the event. the reason i raised this point is to correct the impressions given by thelast statement of your article. that last statement implies that: 1. lockdowns only occur in china 2. lockdowns are bad and are not supposed to happen at all. contrary to what that statement implies, lockdowns do happen not just in china, but in other countries as well, especially prior to really important events. it one way of making sure that no one monkeys around with a system that is working well. there is nothing wrong with this. customers, service providers and content providers are given access to their equipment during the lockdown/network freeze only in emergency situations. again, there is nothing wrong with this. it's one way of telling everybody "guys, it 's working. don't mess around with it until i tell you to, ok?"