Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Data centers are not the most visually stimulating environments, and Google's are no exception. After all, they house computers, and the walls, ceilings, and floors are invariably stark white, or some minor monochromatic variation. So imagine this dream scenario for me: I'm a painter, apart from my day job as a data center technician, which keeps me busy swapping out parts and running cable. And we'd just set up a new Google data center in an undisclosed location.
Hardware Ops colleague 1: "So, we basically own this space and can do anything we want, right?"
HO 2: "Yup."
HO 1: "We should get a big old Google banner in here, or paint one on the wall. Even cooler, we should paint a mural. Hey, Ben, you like to paint, why don't you do something?"
Though I didn't take this challenge too seriously at first, I couldn't help playing around with some ideas. If you've been in a data center, you know there is a lot of wire, and racks with stacks of servers in them. I had some experience running websites and had seen evidence of the Googlebot hitting my own websites. Some kind of robot icon could be a neat starting point. Then I pondered the question: what does Google do? The grossly simplified answer that I came up with is Google connects the world with the Internet.
It all snapped into place: the idea of a robot, connecting a world with the Internet, with wires, that connect to big cabinets of computers. It was not hard then to make the leap to representing the internet as a world, or globe, made up of pages. So I drew up a design and the manager said, "That's great. Go for it."
Then, while everyone was away for the annual ski trip, I started by taking the basic drawing, drawing a grid over it, and translating the units of the grid to the wall.
I did the initial drawing with charcoal pencil, which was easy to remove with an eraser. I used a regular carpenter's level, held up to the wall, to get all the lines straight. Once I had the drawing down, I used masking tape to stencil out certain shapes. This allowed me to rapidly paint into those shapes, and when I pulled off the tape, I got very clean and straight lines.
The whole thing took 70 hours of work. It's 8' high x 22' long.
Now our data center isn't so stark anymore - and I'm looking for another empty wall.