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Behind the Scenes At Google 196

An anonymous reader writes "University of Wahington TV Presents "behind the Scenes With Google." From the site: 'Search is one of the most important applications used on the internet and poses some of the most interesting challenges in computer science. Providing high-quality search requires understanding across a wide range of computer science disciplines. In this program, Jeff Dean of Google describes some of these challenges, discusses applications Google has developed, and highlights systems they've built, including GFS, a large-scale distributed file system, and MapReduce, a library for automatic parallelization and distribution of large-scale computation. He also shares some interesting observations derived from Google's web data.' "
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Behind the Scenes At Google

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:50AM (#12126270)
    Google is actually a giant super computer which has become self-aware. Every person it "hires" is actually one more person it saps knowledge from. In the not too distant future, it hopes to be able to network every human completely so that it can collect the remaining knowledge on Earth more easily.
  • by CheeseburgerBlue ( 553720 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:51AM (#12126276) Homepage Journal
    Man, that's *so* twentieth century. I came to /. for the bleeding edge in information acquisition technology: realtime optical scanning blocks of glyphs encoding human language.

    I can't absorb information I can't copy/paste.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I fsking hate proprietary video formats. Even worse than other formats!
  • UW mirror (Score:4, Informative)

    by JoshuaDFranklin ( 147726 ) * <> on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:54AM (#12126287) Homepage
    Also hosted by CS at: ricted/colloq/details.cgi?id=274 []

    Jeff Dean

    Abstract Search is one of the most important applications used on the internet, but it also poses some of the most interesting challenges in computer science. Providing high-quality search requires understanding across a wide range of computer science disciplines, from lower-level systems issues like computer architecture and distributed systems to applied areas like information retrieval, machine learning, data mining, and user interface design. I'll describe some of the challenges in these areas, discuss some of the applications that Google has developed over the past few years. I'll also highlight some of the systems that we've built at Google, including GFS, a large-scale distributed file system, and MapReduce, a library for automatic parallelization and distribution of large-scale computation. Along the way, I'll share some interesting observations derived from Google's web data. Jeff Dean joined Google in 1999 and is currently a Distinguished Engineer in Google's Systems Lab. While at Google he has worked on Google's crawling, indexing, query serving, and advertising systems, implemented several search quality improvements, and built various pieces of Google's distributed computing infrastructure. Prior to joining Google, he was at DEC/Compaq's Western Research Laboratory. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1996 working with Craig Chambers on compiler optimization techniques for object-oriented languages.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    proximity search (with adjustable range would be extra nice).


    ((gopher OR shrew OR egret) AND -(mole OR newt)) NEAR(range) ((evil OR "satan incarnate") AND (roe AND -chicken))

    "In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock." -- Orson Welles (1915--1985
  • G4/TechTV (Score:2, Insightful)

    by totallygeek ( 263191 )
    I wish that the technology channel actually had programs on technology like this. This could also work on Modern Marvels on History Channel. It would also work nicely on Discovery or PBS. It is time for television programming to amaze me again!
  • 5.6 Mbps? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Wow. If anything can melt a university web server surly a slashdot posting with a link to a 5.6 Mbps mpeg-2 stream on a Google talk is it.
  • I was reading an article a year or so ago about the corporate offices of Google and how there is a projection of all the latest searches displayed in real time on the wall behind the receptionist.

    Now I have some pretty important lists which I need to keep tight control over. The information really ought not be distributed outside my office. However, because of the nature of my business, I must do frequent searches using various search engines to fill in my lists.

    How am I assured that my searches remain
  • Few women in CS. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:58AM (#12126303)
    So, I'm always reading about how unfair the tech world is, because there are so few women joining it. But if you watch the video, the audience is surprisingly full of them.
    • by Flamesplash ( 469287 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @01:12PM (#12126980) Homepage Journal
      When google was recuiting at Georiga Tech they stated that one of their founders had the 'vision' of having half of google female in the near future.

      One of the thecnical female googerls mentioned how that was probably impossible, but by shooting for the impossible you acheive a lot more than you would have otherwise.
  • I wonder when content-based search for media will be possible. Content-based image retrieval for example.
    • I wonder when content-based search for media will be possible. Content-based image retrieval for example.
      Waddaya wanna do? Draw a stick figure in MS Paint and have it find your next dream date on Frumster? In your dreams, habibi....
  • Google & Backup (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:59AM (#12126311)
    I wonder how Google backups its data -- especially the Gmail data. Does the GFS support automatic replication?
  • Images of clowns (Score:2, Interesting)

    by saskboy ( 600063 )
    "Behind the scenes at Google" invokes images of clowns and mimes. Is it just me? Imagine all the people in the world who haven't used the Internet, they probably would get the same impression from the phrase too.
  • GFS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by woah ( 781250 )
    I've never realised that GFS was developed by Google. I've come to know about it because I was building an OpenMosix cluster. At the time OpenMosix had their own distributed filesystem called MFS. But it's proved inadequate, which is why they are switching to GFS

    It's quite nice to see a large corporation make a contribution to Open Source, especially in such a "R&D-esque" field as supercomputing.

    Who said that Open Source only rehashes existing technologies and never does anything new?

  • Mediocre or no Linux support is what I find on the video link provided by the story. Why? I hear Google relies on Linux a lot. If this is true, why is Linux support very disappointing? The same applies to GMail, and oh, even Yahoo!
    • Like any tech company, they went with the biggest platform first. Gmail works on non-Windows browsers now. It just took them a while.
    • Why would using Linux within your own company have anything to do with providing support for people using Linux for a video link in a story? You'd have a point if the story was aimed at people within their company who were using Linux, but it's not, so your point is completely irrelevent.
      • What about in addition to mentioning Windows this or Windows that...or even Apple quicktime this or that, a link was added for Kaffeine, MPlayer, Totem or any other Linux video player? Is that hard to understand/see? Heck...
  • WTFV? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 03, 2005 @11:05AM (#12126331)
    Whoa, whoa.. it's hard enough for us to RTFA but now we've got to WTFV (an hour long one too)?

    The average slashdotter has an attention span of 5 secon.. ooh look a birdie!
  • one word: short any rally.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 03, 2005 @11:32AM (#12126464)
    Here are the first 12 minutes typed out. i'm sorry i can't do the rest, but open the video and skip forward to 12:00 and go from there. i hope that these 12 minutes of my life typing this will save at least 2 other people 12 minutes of theirs.

    (speech from this point...)
    lots of people use google but i want to give you a flavour for what happens and what we are working on for our new systems and products. i'll focus on what are the interesting problems that crop up when you organize large amounts of information, like we do, and what you can do with lots of data and computational resources. i'll also talk about our engeneering organization.

    google ha a mission statement that i like - to organize the worlds information and make it universally accessible and useful. we've moved from web searching to mail and news and searching books by scanning/ocr'ing them. this mission statment covers everything and means we won't run out of work!

    a lot of our issues are to do with scale. we have 4B webpages with average 10kb/page, and lots and lots of searches per sections. it's a big problem but you solve it with lots of computers and disks and network them well.

    dealing with scale comes about in a number of areas. hardware/network; what do you use. distributed systems; dealing with unreliable things. algorithims/structures; processing efficiently and in interesting ways. machine learning/info retrevial; improving quality of results by analyzing lots of data. user interfaces; we haven't done much on this yet but it would be interesting to provide new and interesting ways to naviage and refine the query by doing better things than just typing in new query words - i'd expect to see more developments in this area.

    one thing we've made a decision about is that we tend to build on low cost commodity PCs. example setup: ibm eserver xseries 440, 8 2-ghz xexon, 64GB ram 8TB disk = 758,000. we use this: 88 machines that total, 172 2-ghz xeons, 176 GB ram, ~7TB = 278,000. this is 1/3x price, more cpu.

    google was founded in 97 by two people at stanford working on interesting ways to use the search, but needed new hardware to do this. they'd go to the loading dock and offer to setup machine for other reasearch projects - but keep them for a while themselves to get work done. over time google was formed in 1999, and we've learned a lot since then - such as how to scale better and have good datacenter practices.

    hosting centers were charging for the square foot, which is strange since their costs come from things like cooling and electricity so we got good at putting a lot of servers in one place. we know are very good at setting up large clusters quickly, such as our gigantic 2001 datacenter move configured in 3 days.

    if you have that many machines you have to worry about failure. one machine might fail every thousand days, but thousands of machines mean at least a failure a day. you have to deal with this in software with replication and redundancy. one nice property of dealing with this problem is that having six copies for capacity reasons also means we now have six copies available for distributed application and load balancing. a lot of the applications we deal with are read-only, which helps handling so many querys easy.
    • I think you get more out of if it from watching the video. Not only are there graphs and pictures at some points (like pictures of Google over the years), but you get to hear all the little jokes Jeff Dean makes (he is a pretty funny guy). Also, near the end they show a neat behind-the-scenes interface where you can look at automatically formed clusters of information. It clusters words or ideas together, which is probably used by things like Google Sets and their search engine (try searching for [lotr], it
  • by Stalyn ( 662 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @11:33AM (#12126467) Homepage Journal
    can anyone confirm that Leni Riefenstahl [] was behind this film?
  • Pfffft. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Das Auge ( 597142 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @11:40AM (#12126498)
    Thats no secret, it's pigeons.
  • A /. article where we shouldn't hear a whole bunch of "RTFA" posts. ;-) WTFM? Dunno if that's as catchy.
  • Behind the scenes? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 03, 2005 @11:57AM (#12126595)
    Disclaimer: my opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of Google, Inc.

    That having been said, as a long time insider I have a pretty good idea about what really happens "behind the scenes" and let me tell you, both conspiracy theories crackpots and our slashdot fanboys are quite amusing, but the boring fact is that we are neither trying to take over the world, nor are we the best thing since the second coming of Jesus.

    We used to be a very successful startup, yes, and now we are a fairly successful corporation. Yes, there are a lot of smart people working here, but don't fool yourself, "the most interesting challenges in computer science" are happening in academia, not in corporations. (Besides, anyone who knows Jeff is perfectly aware that he often tends to grossly exaggerate our importance, but to be honest that is a part of his job which he is doing really great.)

    All in all, I love to work here, I thing there are a lot of very smart people here, but if you think that we are the only place on the planet where geniuses cluster lately, you are just not being reasonable. If you want to find real discoveries you have to look in places where people don't have shareholders telling them what to do. The point is that we haven't done anything new per se, only the scale of our implementations is unprecedented.

    For example, in my 20% time (Google allows us to spend 20% of paid work time on personal projects) I am working with KeyKOS right now and let me tell you, this is what I call innovation. It was done in the '70s and no mainstream OS has implemented its ideas to this day so far. I'm sure that when after a decade or two a Big Corporation (be it Google, Microsoft, Apple, or IBM) reimplements KeyKOS, the Slashdot crowd will wet their pants screaming "wow, what an innovation!" completely forgetting that it was an innovation back in the '70s of the 20th century when Norm Hurdy et al. were working on it quitely with no buzz and fanfares. Please remember that "The Next Big Thing" is always an old idea but this time backed with $$$ and marketing. Please never forget it, or otherwise the people who are worth their salt will only consider you uneducated.
    • This has got to be the best post I've read about Google. I am so friggin' sick of hearing BS about "Google's Gmail is EVIL!!!!!!!!111111!!!!x0rz! Just READ their terms!!" and the such. Woopdie doo, read Yahoo's. Speaking of which, no one seems to be bitching about Yahoo's 'evils.' Seems to me that if Google's actions are so borg...ish, then why have other search engines not been brought up? Google Maps comes out, all I hear is "another step towards monopolization." Yahoo Maps, no one seems to give a
    • "the most interesting challenges in computer science" are happening in academia, not in corporations.

      If you want to find real discoveries you have to look in places where people don't have shareholders telling them what to do.

      Unfortunately academia itself is increasingly under the spell of (well-meaning but) clueless administrators who believe science will magically happen if they drive OUT anything that doesn't claim immediate applications.

      Case in point, our Dean right here, who I wish could read wh

  • by stevemm81 ( 203868 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @12:11PM (#12126669) Homepage
    Google is constantly giving talks like this at universities. I saw one at Harvard back in the fall.
    They aren't really news worth reporting on slashdot, since they all contain the same content.
  • Equal Time (Score:5, Informative)

    by DanielMarkham ( 765899 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @12:30PM (#12126785) Homepage
    Hey -- I love Google. Use it every day, and I think they're doing some really neat stuff. But this was an hour-long commercial for Google - -to me it looked designed to recruit from college campuses. While I think it's great that Google does this (it sure sounds like a great way to get cheap qualified labor) is it really new or interesting? Or even geeky? So we have redundant clustering, LISP-like patterns, and issues of dealing with BIG stuff. Hasn't the industry already done all of this, like dozens of times? You can't tell me VISA international doesn't handle this size data, or that General Motors doesn't have some of the same scaling issues. I read somewhere that Wal-Mart has one of the biggest computer systems in the world. To me the signal-to-noise ratio was out of whack to make it worth an hour of my time. Just my opinion folks.
  • poses some of the most interesting challenges in computer science and information theory and application, database theory and application and some more. It is quite a nice wide area of possible R&D with great prospects for everyone, be them starters or veterans. And please don't say C.S. includes all that (especially since bashing if I.T. degrees on /. is so fashionable these days), it doesn't.

  • ...Google seems to be down a lot lately? Like right now, I can't seem to get to it...what's with that?
  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @03:16PM (#12127697) Journal
    Considering that there isn't any magical alchemy going on behind the scenes, google is in fact pretty boring. The only thing interesting is the scale of the operation.

    Dan East

    (finally able to post for the first time in two weeks - wonder if anyone else had a problem)
  • by danila ( 69889 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @04:15PM (#12128044) Homepage
    May be Google has done some nifty things with their file-system, but can't we forget about it already? Their search hasn't changed much []">in the past six years. Of course, the fanboys will salivate over Google calculator [] and Google unit converter [], but on the scale of Internet these "innovations" barely register.

    Some of the other search engines are comparable in quality to Google (Teoma [], Vivisimo []), and may be better, depending on how many points you take away from Google for spam-infested results, too many blogs, too many Wikipedia clones, too many commercial sites, etc. And some sites are so much further on the innovation scale (meet BrainBoost [], an artifically intelligent Internet reference desk answering any questions asked in natural English, with amazing quality and accuracy in a very friendly and usable interface) that they put Google to shame.
  • I found this video back in February, isn't this a dupe? Anyway my blog post [] about it also has a link to good paper on the Google File System written up for the 19th ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles, along with video of the talk the Google guys gave at the symposium.

    You might also want to have a look at my post on Eric Schmidt talking about Google [] to the Stanford Business School. The post also has a link to a video of Urs Hölzle talking to the University of Washington about clustering at

  • poses some of the most interesting challenges in computer science.

    Just throw some more hardware at it.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?