Google's Servers, Behind the Great Firewall

Most hosting companies have been reluctant to physically locate data centers on the Chinese mainland due to concerns about the government's policies, opting instead to place their data centers in the region in Hong Kong or Singapore.

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.

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