Stanford Data Science / Infoseminar
Winter 2015

Datacenters as Computers: Google Engineering & Database Research Perspectives

Shivakumar Venkataraman, Google


This will largely be a repeat of the VLDB 2014 Keynote Address with a few changes. I will share Google’s experience in building a scalable data infrastructure that leverages datacenters for managing Google's advertising data over the last decade. In order to support the massive online advertising platform at Google, the data infrastructure must simultaneously support both transactional and analytical workloads. The focus of this talk will be to highlight how the datacenter architecture and the cloud computing paradigm has enabled us to manage the exponential growth in data volumes and user queries, make our services highly available and fault tolerant to massive datacenter outages, and deliver results with very low latencies. We note that other Internet companies have also undergone similar growth in data volumes and user queries. In fact, this phenomenon has resulted in at least two new terms in the technology lexicon: big data and cloud computing. Cloud computing (and datacenters) have been largely responsible for scaling the data volumes from terabytes range just a few years ago to now reaching in the exabyte range over the next couple of years. Delivering solutions at this scale that are fault- tolerant, latency sensitive, and highly available requires a combination of research advances with engineering ingenuity at Google and elsewhere. Next, we will try to answer the following question: is a datacenter just another (very large) computer? Or, does it fundamentally change the design principles for data-centric applications and systems. We will conclude with some of the unique research challenges that need to be addressed in order to sustain continuous growth in data volumes while supporting high throughput and low latencies.


Shivakumar Venkataraman is Vice President of Engineering for Google's Advertising Infrastructure and Payments Systems. He received his BS in Computer Science from IIT, Madras in 1990 and received his MS and PhD in Computer Science from University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1991 and 1996 respectively. From 1996 to 2000, he worked on the development of IBM's federated query optimizers and associated technologies. He worked with Cohera Corporation, PeopleSoft, Required Technologies, and AdeSoft. He also served as a Visiting Faculty member at UC Berkeley in 2002. He has been with Google since 2003. At Google, Dr. Venkataraman is recognized for the vision in the development of critical technologies for databases: scalable distributed database management system F1, scalable data warehousing solution Mesa, scalable log-processing system Photon, among others.