The real Web 2.0

Nick Carr has an interesting post about what’s going on under the hood, as it were. It’s started me brooding…

Web 2.0 isn’t about applications. It’s about bricks and mortar. It’s about capital assets. It’s about infrastructure.

Yesterday, Google formally announced that, in addition to building a big utility computing plant in Lenoir, it will also build one a little to the south, at a 520-acre site in Mt. Holly, South Carolina, near Charleston. The company will be reimbursed by the state for some of its building expenses, and, the governor reports, legislators have “updated the state tax code to exempt the electricity and the capital investment in equipment necessary for this kind of a facility … from sales tax,” an exemption similar to one granted manufacturers. Google expects to invest $600 million in the facility and hire a modest 200 workers to man the largely automated plant. Google may also build yet another data center in Columbia, South Carolina.

At a pork barbecue celebrating the announcement of the data center deal, Google held a question and answer session with local dignitaries, but it was characteristically closed-mouthed about the details of its operation. Asked how it uses water and electricity at its sites, Google executive Rhett Weiss said, “We’re in a highly competitive industry and, frankly, one or two little pieces of information like that in the hands of our competitors can do us considerable damage. So we can’t discuss it.”

He goes on to discuss what Microsoft is doing in the infrastructure line too.

The local paper’s account of the Google deal is hilarious. Sample:

The company hopes to open its first building by December and the second building 18 months later.

It plans to begin advertising for the leadership positions on its Web site by next week at the latest.

Chris Kerrigan, president of the Trident United Way, said Google and Alcoa donated the money from the timber sale to Links to Success, a program that tries to keep children in schools in Dorchester and Berkeley counties.

Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis also praised the company for writing the county a check for $4.34 million for the right to tap into the water system.

Davis said the company could have spread the payment out over 30 years if it had wanted to.

John Scarborough, the county’s director of economic development, said the company’s annual payroll in Berkeley County will be about $12 million to $15 million, much of which will be spent in the area.

He said luring Google will be a major status symbol for Berkeley County.

“It shows companies that in Berkeley County we can handle the big projects, we can handle them professionally and confidentially, and we can solve problems that need to be solved,” he said.