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Google’s space-age SneakerNet

Remember SneakerNet? Think it’s gone? Except for that once-in-a-while you have to use it because the bandwidth is too small or two machines won’t talk to each other?


According to a Wired story, Google has decided it’s faster to drive data from one place to another if the volume of data is high enough.

In this case it’s 120TB – nearly all the astronomical data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope. A Google program manager named Chris DiBona (whose pic makes him look like Penn Jillette in pirate drag) is overseeing an informal arrangement in which Google acts as data repository and distributor for scientists with really large chunks of data to move.

Rather than spend a month loading data into packets and sending it over the network, the Google crew is loading the data onto cheap-PC hard drives and FedExing them between the Hubble Telescope crew and its own facilities. It only takes about a day to load up the data, and FedEx delivers overnight.

It will use the same procedure to send copies of the data to other scientists, or to collect and distribute data from other scientists.

That’s a long way from sending an intern across the office with a floppy disk. But every technology has to be updated to accommodate modern requirements. Even SneakerNet.  

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