Loren asks “will you switch to Ask?”

Loren Heiny asks the big question: will you switch to Ask?

I won’t.

Why not? Because of speed. Sorry, a KEY part of Google’s quality (and TechMeme’s, to tell the truth) is that Google’s results come back almost instantly. I just did a search for “Dave Winer” and Ask’s results took about two seconds to appear. Google’s appeared in less than half a second.

Now that I’ve seen the inside of part of a Google datacenter I understand just how tough it’ll be to beat. Google’s datacenters are just so amazing. It’s funny, since I was in that datacenter last Friday I’ve met a bunch of Googlers. None of whom have ever been in a Google datacenter.

Why is that funny? Because the datacenter is Google’s KEY DEFENSE against “new” competition.

From now on if anyone says they are gonna be better than Google at something I’m going to ask for a tour of their datacenter first.

If you don’t have datacenter excellence there’s NO WAY you’re going to beat Google at coming back fast.

It all starts in the datacenter. I’m not switching until someone demonstrates they can compete with Google in the datacenter. That said, it’s nice that Ask improved the UI and is bringing other kinds of searches onto its result page. I’ll keep trying it out, but I won’t switch to it.

87 thoughts on “Loren asks “will you switch to Ask?”

  1. Robert, if Microsoft were simply moving existing servers to to those brand-new data centers… that would be tantamount to misleading their investors. They simply aren’t filling those DCs up with used equipment. SURE, there is some legacy stuff. But the vast majority is new and are there for future growth. I didn’t mean to imply that not a single used machine would be moved. Sorry to confuse.

    > I’d love to have your datacenter on my show

    My work, as I noted, involved around 120 servers. And we didn’t have the luxury of capital to hit 120 on day 1. More like 6 years to get there. Still, even within that incrementally build server farm… we used a grand total of FOUR server hardware models, all from the same manufacturer. There were two box sizes (large for databases, and small for ‘everything else’). And its not a BAD thing that our manufacturer incremented the model numbers when they did upgrades. Don’t tell me that google has the same hard drives, etc. I call BS. They’ve had their site running for FAR too many years, for that to be the case.

  2. Robert, if Microsoft were simply moving existing servers to to those brand-new data centers… that would be tantamount to misleading their investors. They simply aren’t filling those DCs up with used equipment. SURE, there is some legacy stuff. But the vast majority is new and are there for future growth. I didn’t mean to imply that not a single used machine would be moved. Sorry to confuse.

    > I’d love to have your datacenter on my show

    My work, as I noted, involved around 120 servers. And we didn’t have the luxury of capital to hit 120 on day 1. More like 6 years to get there. Still, even within that incrementally build server farm… we used a grand total of FOUR server hardware models, all from the same manufacturer. There were two box sizes (large for databases, and small for ‘everything else’). And its not a BAD thing that our manufacturer incremented the model numbers when they did upgrades. Don’t tell me that google has the same hard drives, etc. I call BS. They’ve had their site running for FAR too many years, for that to be the case.

  3. Teknologist: part of Microsoft was — until a few weeks ago — housed in the same datacenter as Zoho. They moved out. You telling me they didn’t move those servers into their new data center? Uh, huh. You forget that Hotmail has 200 million people on it. You don’t just “throw out” that kind of data center and start again. And that’s only a very small piece of Microsoft’s datacenter.
    Oh, and did your datacenter have thousands of computers in it?
    Did all of your computers slide out for easy replacement? Did all your computers have the same processor, hard drive, power supply, fan?
    Were your computers open to the air without a case around them so they cooled more efficiently and required less fan power?
    Were they as cheap to build as Google’s?
    If so, I’d love to have your datacenter on my show and meet the guy who built it.
    The guy who built Zoho’s (more than a million of equipment) is in awe of Google’s data center execution. So are other people I know who know about datacenters.

  4. Teknologist: part of Microsoft was — until a few weeks ago — housed in the same datacenter as Zoho. They moved out. You telling me they didn’t move those servers into their new data center? Uh, huh. You forget that Hotmail has 200 million people on it. You don’t just “throw out” that kind of data center and start again. And that’s only a very small piece of Microsoft’s datacenter.
    Oh, and did your datacenter have thousands of computers in it?
    Did all of your computers slide out for easy replacement? Did all your computers have the same processor, hard drive, power supply, fan?
    Were your computers open to the air without a case around them so they cooled more efficiently and required less fan power?
    Were they as cheap to build as Google’s?
    If so, I’d love to have your datacenter on my show and meet the guy who built it.
    The guy who built Zoho’s (more than a million of equipment) is in awe of Google’s data center execution. So are other people I know who know about datacenters.

  5. One more thing… I havent seen (knowingly) a microsoft installation in a data center. However, I would have to assume they have an INCREDIBLE advantage in waiting until NOW to really start their data center buildouts. THey aren’t moving used servers and disk arrays into those new digs.

  6. One more thing… I havent seen (knowingly) a microsoft installation in a data center. However, I would have to assume they have an INCREDIBLE advantage in waiting until NOW to really start their data center buildouts. THey aren’t moving used servers and disk arrays into those new digs.

  7. I know each time I moved my comparatively paltry 120 servers from one data center provider to another (forced each time, due to bankruptsy or DC shutdown) we GREATLY improved the “visual” tidiness, but the shit still ran as fast/slow as it did previously. But it was dust free (yes, there IS dust even in a climate controlled data center) for a while, and the wiring was prepped slowly and deliberately. It impressed the ceo (scoble-types), but did nothing to affect performance or reliability. Then over time, as emergencies happen and you rush servers into service… the perfect visual becomes muddy once again.

  8. I know each time I moved my comparatively paltry 120 servers from one data center provider to another (forced each time, due to bankruptsy or DC shutdown) we GREATLY improved the “visual” tidiness, but the shit still ran as fast/slow as it did previously. But it was dust free (yes, there IS dust even in a climate controlled data center) for a while, and the wiring was prepped slowly and deliberately. It impressed the ceo (scoble-types), but did nothing to affect performance or reliability. Then over time, as emergencies happen and you rush servers into service… the perfect visual becomes muddy once again.

  9. I agree 100% with Robert–speed is VERY important. WE have more servers than we need and that’s why we are soooooo fast right now. Our pages are much longer and larger than Google or Ask’s, but we are right behind Google and ahead of Ask in terms of speed (or close to ask).

    I suggest going to the home page and trying a bunch of links. We’re having big debates now if we should add images to pages or not due to speed.

    Very hard decisions… some folks are obsessed with speed like Robert, some folks want more content/images/video. Some folks want different things are different times.

    ugh… I’m glad we are in Alpha and have a couple of years to figure this out!

    Jason
    (CEO of Mahalo.com)

  10. I agree 100% with Robert–speed is VERY important. WE have more servers than we need and that’s why we are soooooo fast right now. Our pages are much longer and larger than Google or Ask’s, but we are right behind Google and ahead of Ask in terms of speed (or close to ask).

    I suggest going to the home page and trying a bunch of links. We’re having big debates now if we should add images to pages or not due to speed.

    Very hard decisions… some folks are obsessed with speed like Robert, some folks want more content/images/video. Some folks want different things are different times.

    ugh… I’m glad we are in Alpha and have a couple of years to figure this out!

    Jason
    (CEO of Mahalo.com)

  11. Brevin: you’re right. +I+ don’t know much about running data centers (although I did the wiring on Winnov’s datacenter back in the mid-1990s). But I’ve spent quite a few hours with people who DO run datacenters.
    Why did I get so excited about Google? Have you ever been in a professionally-run datacenter? I guess not if you don’t get that their equipment is easier to manage, lower cost to acquire, more power efficient, and architected (and wired) better. Who said that? Me? No. Raju at Zoho who is in awe of Google’s datacenter execution too.

  12. Brevin: you’re right. +I+ don’t know much about running data centers (although I did the wiring on Winnov’s datacenter back in the mid-1990s). But I’ve spent quite a few hours with people who DO run datacenters.
    Why did I get so excited about Google? Have you ever been in a professionally-run datacenter? I guess not if you don’t get that their equipment is easier to manage, lower cost to acquire, more power efficient, and architected (and wired) better. Who said that? Me? No. Raju at Zoho who is in awe of Google’s datacenter execution too.

  13. “but not run as well as Google’s, sorry.”

    Yet another baseless Scoble proclamation. Scoble, who knows absolutely nothing about data centers, feels qualified to make pronouncements regarding them. Scoble, you don’t know yourself very well; from reading this blog, it’s clear to me that you’re very easily “wow’ed” (as evidence, all of your “(Insert gadget or web service here) Rocks!!” posts for mediocre products.

    Just because you (especially you) were wow’ed by a bunch of servers in a room doesn’t mean anything at all.

  14. “but not run as well as Google’s, sorry.”

    Yet another baseless Scoble proclamation. Scoble, who knows absolutely nothing about data centers, feels qualified to make pronouncements regarding them. Scoble, you don’t know yourself very well; from reading this blog, it’s clear to me that you’re very easily “wow’ed” (as evidence, all of your “(Insert gadget or web service here) Rocks!!” posts for mediocre products.

    Just because you (especially you) were wow’ed by a bunch of servers in a room doesn’t mean anything at all.

  15. “A LOT of the Top 2000 post once a day, on average. It is not about frequency – it is about quality”

    Exactly. just like high frequency is *one* of the traits, DCs are one such thing for a web 2.0 company.

  16. “A LOT of the Top 2000 post once a day, on average. It is not about frequency – it is about quality”

    Exactly. just like high frequency is *one* of the traits, DCs are one such thing for a web 2.0 company.

  17. @7 “but not run as well as Google’s, sorry.”

    You know that…how? Have you reviewed that ops procedures of both? If so, what leads you to your conclusion? You see one small part of Google’s datacenter and one part of Microsoft’s and come to this conclusion? GREAT analysis!

  18. @7 “but not run as well as Google’s, sorry.”

    You know that…how? Have you reviewed that ops procedures of both? If so, what leads you to your conclusion? You see one small part of Google’s datacenter and one part of Microsoft’s and come to this conclusion? GREAT analysis!

  19. Oh – the first blogspot.com blog with the odd name that only has 2 matches on Ask is sinisilma.blogspot.com – just so you can test it out on Ask and see…

  20. Oh – the first blogspot.com blog with the odd name that only has 2 matches on Ask is sinisilma.blogspot.com – just so you can test it out on Ask and see…

  21. If I search for Salubri on Ask – I get my blog up Top result. I’m very happy. :-) Woohoo… Salubri is a VERY commonly used “non word” on the internet (9000+ results on ask) as it is the name of a tribe of vampires in a game. I’m delighted that Ask puts me top of the list…
    Unfortunately I do not search for my own stuff all that regularly so I tried another…
    A blogspot.com blog by a friend of mine (more posts and more active till recently) – nope… First result is a (seemingly unrelated) advert and the second is a post on my blog that links him… Cool more traffic for me… Hmmm blogspot.com = blogger.com = ???… Curious!
    If I search for “lifesyncs” (a friend’s blog on blogger lifesyncs.blogspot.com) I get 2 results… A website by yours truly that refers to his blog and something altogether different… That’s wierd… Wait – theres a name on his blog “Synchronicity” hmm OK lets try “synchronicity movies spider-man disappointing” (that can’t be that common and he used all those phrases in one post on his blogrecently) Nope… 40 results but NOTHING related to his blog? How about “Synchronicity Sligo” he’s from Sligo and mentions it in posts… Nah – I give up at page one where there are LOADS of ads and not alot to do with synchronicity… Blogger.com not really a priority? I’m just saying… *shrug*
    Google returned the blogs I was looking for at top of the list for all those queries by the by… Except mine (I’m ok with that – the Salubri vampires had the name first and outnumber me 9000 sitees to 1) if I google “Salubri blog” I’m back to the top.

    Not that where my friends or I place in searches really matters a darn – just curious how the blogger blogs seems to be suffering on Ask…

    Oh – and the interface isn’t as nice as Technorati…

  22. If I search for Salubri on Ask – I get my blog up Top result. I’m very happy. :-) Woohoo… Salubri is a VERY commonly used “non word” on the internet (9000+ results on ask) as it is the name of a tribe of vampires in a game. I’m delighted that Ask puts me top of the list…
    Unfortunately I do not search for my own stuff all that regularly so I tried another…
    A blogspot.com blog by a friend of mine (more posts and more active till recently) – nope… First result is a (seemingly unrelated) advert and the second is a post on my blog that links him… Cool more traffic for me… Hmmm blogspot.com = blogger.com = ???… Curious!
    If I search for “lifesyncs” (a friend’s blog on blogger lifesyncs.blogspot.com) I get 2 results… A website by yours truly that refers to his blog and something altogether different… That’s wierd… Wait – theres a name on his blog “Synchronicity” hmm OK lets try “synchronicity movies spider-man disappointing” (that can’t be that common and he used all those phrases in one post on his blogrecently) Nope… 40 results but NOTHING related to his blog? How about “Synchronicity Sligo” he’s from Sligo and mentions it in posts… Nah – I give up at page one where there are LOADS of ads and not alot to do with synchronicity… Blogger.com not really a priority? I’m just saying… *shrug*
    Google returned the blogs I was looking for at top of the list for all those queries by the by… Except mine (I’m ok with that – the Salubri vampires had the name first and outnumber me 9000 sitees to 1) if I google “Salubri blog” I’m back to the top.

    Not that where my friends or I place in searches really matters a darn – just curious how the blogger blogs seems to be suffering on Ask…

    Oh – and the interface isn’t as nice as Technorati…

  23. I half think you were fishing for comments here, but nonetheless I want to comment, since I happen to live and breathe in the datacenter space. There’s a key distinction here between datacenter and infrastructure that I think everyone is tripping over. You’re saying a few things at once here in my opinion.

    1. Google’s datacenters are pretty. That hints at some great operational efficiencies and real attention to the details.

    2. Google’s infrastructure is great. They have selected systems that best suit their applications.

    3. Google’s search is fast, accurate, and reliable. It has been so for some time, so it would take more than an incremental difference (ie. a little bit faster, or a little bit more accurate) to move you.

    Does datacenter tidiness mean the application will run faster? Strictly speaking, no. However, the fact that they have neat and tidy DCs suggest that they have their act together around IT processes. When they need to scale up, out or respond to major infrastructure issues, they likely understand exactly what’s required and can perform with ease. Based on my understanding of google’s business model, that is essential for them. Scaling up and out efficiently and minimizing downtime is critical.

    Now, that being said did they show Robert the cabling closet on the developers floor? Probably not, I’m sure it was one of their showcase production floors.

  24. I half think you were fishing for comments here, but nonetheless I want to comment, since I happen to live and breathe in the datacenter space. There’s a key distinction here between datacenter and infrastructure that I think everyone is tripping over. You’re saying a few things at once here in my opinion.

    1. Google’s datacenters are pretty. That hints at some great operational efficiencies and real attention to the details.

    2. Google’s infrastructure is great. They have selected systems that best suit their applications.

    3. Google’s search is fast, accurate, and reliable. It has been so for some time, so it would take more than an incremental difference (ie. a little bit faster, or a little bit more accurate) to move you.

    Does datacenter tidiness mean the application will run faster? Strictly speaking, no. However, the fact that they have neat and tidy DCs suggest that they have their act together around IT processes. When they need to scale up, out or respond to major infrastructure issues, they likely understand exactly what’s required and can perform with ease. Based on my understanding of google’s business model, that is essential for them. Scaling up and out efficiently and minimizing downtime is critical.

    Now, that being said did they show Robert the cabling closet on the developers floor? Probably not, I’m sure it was one of their showcase production floors.

  25. > Because the datacenter is Google’s KEY DEFENSE
    > against “new” competition.

    A possible way to overcome this could be the use of
    peer-to-peer technology for search engines: http://www.faroo.com

  26. > Because the datacenter is Google’s KEY DEFENSE
    > against “new” competition.

    A possible way to overcome this could be the use of
    peer-to-peer technology for search engines: http://www.faroo.com

  27. Ask.com has a customizable skin functionality: user can select a background image for the search box.

    I was curious how large the image is because it will affect the amount of data travelling between user’s PC and Ask.com servers. Of course, the image is normally retrieved from the browser cache.

    Anyway, one of the images is around 250K, and the URL points to Akamai. So, at least for images, Ask.com is utilizing Akamai’s datacenters. But I’d guess they execute the actual search internally in the company’s servers. Heck, I don’t know: you can outsource almost anything nowadays.

  28. Ask.com has a customizable skin functionality: user can select a background image for the search box.

    I was curious how large the image is because it will affect the amount of data travelling between user’s PC and Ask.com servers. Of course, the image is normally retrieved from the browser cache.

    Anyway, one of the images is around 250K, and the URL points to Akamai. So, at least for images, Ask.com is utilizing Akamai’s datacenters. But I’d guess they execute the actual search internally in the company’s servers. Heck, I don’t know: you can outsource almost anything nowadays.

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