A Journey to the Center of the Internet

Andrew Blum, HarperCollins, 2012

This book describes the physical structure of the fiber optics that connect the internet, the layer between the physics and the switches. It focuses on the half dozen hubs where data passes between routes, and the centimeter scale fiber cables between them.

The author does not describe the actual cable laying across land or from ships, though he does describe the Hugh O'Kane Electric Company pulling a fiber cable through Manhattan conduits owned by the Empire City Subway subsidiary of Verizon. He also describes the "landing" of a transoceanic cable in Portugal, and the Porthcurno cable landing in Cornwall. I was surprised to learn that the erbium-doped optical fiber repeaters are spaced only 50 miles apart. They are powered by high voltage from the land ends. There's more data on ocean routes, though the author does not describe the routes leaving Brookings Oregon for Asia.

There is a good writeup about the Q-Life broadband internet project in The Dalles, connecting the Oregon city to BPA's fiber at the Big Eddy substation.

That helped bring Google's attention to the area, resulting in their data center occupying half the industrial park (and incidentally, creating few local jobs). Google told Blum very little about what they are doing. There's more information about the Facebook center in Prineville OR, and the Microsoft/Yahoo/Ask centers in Quincy WA. These are dry areas with some water, permitting low cost evaporative cooling for these huge heat-emitting data centers.

A visit to Lawrence Kleinrock at UCLA, the home of the first IMP Internet Message Processor in 1969, connected to the second IMP at Stanford. Kleinrock's students Vint Cerf, John Postel, and others designed TCP/IP, IPV4, and other core protocols for the Internet.

The book also visits various hubs, like Equinix (in Ashburn VA and worldwide), DE-CIX in Frankfurt, AMS-IX in Amsterdam, and the London Internet Exchange in the Docklands, and earlier installations such as MAE-East and PAIX. Perhaps too many visits describing the rooms and the outsides of the racks (Juniper, Brocade, Cisco), no discussion of either the routing protocols or the hardware implementation. The author frets about physical security, without thinking much about the strengths and weaknesses of the protocols and hardware.

Tubes (last edited 2013-04-14 20:51:05 by KeithLofstrom)