'The cage': What was Google's first ever data centre like?

These days, Google's data centres are like sprawling high-tech palaces where you'll find rows upon rows of powerful computers, brightly coloured cords, and flashing lights. But 15 years ago, Google's digs weren't nearly as impressive.

Back then, the company's data centre was more like a small closet. Google's eighth employee, Urs Hölzle, this week took a trip down memory lane to his first visit to the "Google cage" in the Exodus data centre in Santa Clara, California back in 1999.

At the time, Hölzle wasn't yet an employee of the search giant. He was there for a meeting with Google co-founder Larry Page, and it was his first time ever entering a data centre.

"And you couldn't really 'set foot' in the first Google cage because it was tiny and filled with about 30 PCs on shelves," Hölzle, who is now Google's senior vice president of technical infrastructures, wrote in a Google+ post.

The building, which has long since been shut down, was one of the first co-location facilities in Silicon Valley, Hölzle said. Google was situated right next to eBay, and down the way was a larger cage hosting computer maker DEC and AltaVista, which officially closed up shop last year.

In Google's cage, "a1 through a24 were the main servers to build and serve the index and c1 through c4 were the crawl machines," Hölzle said. By 1998, Google already had a second cage, which was about three times larger and housed the company's first four racks, each containing 21 machines named d1-42 and f1-42.

"I don't recall who manufactured d and f but they were trays with a single large motherboard and a Pentium II CPU," Hölzle wrote. "(Later, the g rack would be the first corkboard rack.)"

Fifteen years ago, a megabit of bandwidth set Google back $1,200 (£734) per month, and 1 Mbps was equivalent to about a million queries a day, he added. Google bought two megabits, though it didn't reach that amount until around the summer of 1999.

Other fun facts? Page negotiated a special deal for crawl bandwidth. "Larry had convinced the sales person that they should give it to us for 'cheap' because it's all incoming traffic, which didn't require any extra bandwidth for them because Exodus traffic was primarily outbound," Hölzle wrote.