When Google arrived in the late 1990s, hundreds of thousands of people were instantly captivated by its knack for taking them wherever they wanted to go on the internet. Developed by the company’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the algorithm that drove the site seemed to work like magic.
But as the internet search engine expanded its reach to billions of people over the next decade, it was driven by another major technological advance that was less discussed, though no less important: the redesign of Google’s giant computer data centers.
Led by a Brazilian named Luiz Barroso, a small team of engineers rebuilt the warehouse-size centers so that they behaved like a single machine — a technological shift that would change the way the entire internet was built, allowing any site to reach billions of people almost instantly and much more consistently.
Dr. Barroso, who changed the fabric of the internet, died on Sept. 16 at 59. His wife, Catherine Warner, said the cause was cardiac arrest.
Before the rise of Google, internet companies stuffed their data centers with increasingly powerful and expensive computer servers, as they struggled to reach more and more people. Each server delivered the website to a relatively small group of people. And if the server died, those people were out of luck.
But Google took a different tack. Working alongside Urs Hölzle, the company’s first vice president of engineering, Dr. Barroso realized that the best way to distribute a wildly popular website like Google was to break it into tiny pieces and spread them evenly across an array of servers. Rather than each server delivering the site to a small group of people, the entire data center delivered the site to its entire audience.
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