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Google now spending 4 times more on its data centers and infrastructure

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April 17, 2014

In just the first three months of 2014, Google reported in its financial statements yesterday that it spent an incredible $2.35 billion on its data centers and infrastructure. There's no question that the company is growing very fast.

The investment was revealed by Google deep within its financial results and clearly demonstrates just how much the company has grown in the past 8 to 10 years, considering that it spent the same amount during the entirety of 2008.

What Google now spends on purchases of property and equipment in just one quarter, most of which goes on data centers and associated IT equipment, it used to spend in a whole year.

And such a level of expenditure dwarfs Google's data-intensive competitors as well. For example, Amazon just spent $880 million in its most recent quarter, and Microsoft only spent $1.7 billion.

The significant difference in capital expenditures between Google and its competitors illustrates both the globe-spanning scale at which the company operates and also demonstrates its wider strategy of designing systems to not only organize but store and analyze the globe's information.

For example, Google Street View was launched in the summer of 2007 and since then has been gobbling up tons of visual data captured on land and even at sea.

All of that data has to go somewhere and even with Google's in-house technical resources this carries a certain cost, like it or not.

And while all of this is happening, the company has been buying more and more computer chips as it tries to run sophisticated analysis tasks over this voluminous information, such as the so-called "cat face" recognizing layered neural network it trained using 15,000 CPUs.

Now, we're reaching a point where Google's "Deep Learning" endeavors have grown enough to be put into wide production use for such tasks as image recognition, natural language processing and, of course, its very first project-- search.

This means that the company is also going to be buying more computer chips than before to let it analyze all that data.

Google's spending on property and equipment for the entirety of 2013 was $7.35 billion, including operating lease agreements. Given this quarter's significant spending, Google's massive and secretive artificial intelligence push, and the fact that it has just begun a serious price competition war for cloud services with Amazon and Microsoft, Google could spend upwards of $10 billion this year.

In other IT news

Fujitsu Semiconductor and Panasonic say they are ready to jointly launch a new chip company in the fall as part of the duo’s plans to merge their LSI businesses, according to a few reports in the media this morning.

The new venture will have ¥50 billion in funding, with Fujitsu chipping in ¥20 billion, Panasonic ¥10 billion and the Development Bank of Japan investing the rest.

The news comes just over six weeks after Fujitsu announced it was dissolving a joint venture with NEC and NTT to build chips for smartphones.

Fujitsu established Access Network Technology Limited in August 2012, taking a majority 52.8 percent stake in the company. But just 1 1/2 year later it claimed that fierce competition had forced it to close the company.

Panasonic will doubtless hope this upcoming venture with Fujitsu doesn’t suffer the same fate. On paper, it has a better chance of success, given that this isn't a case of launching into a new technology segment, but instead the product of a decision taken last year to consolidate the design and development functions of the two companies’ LSI businesses.

At the time, they had the following by way of explanation-- ``In recent years, as market conditions have rapidly deteriorated and overseas semiconductor manufacturers have risen in prominence, the system LSI businesses of Fujitsu Semiconductor and Panasonic have been facing a severe business environment.``

``In light of this situation, Fujitsu and Panasonic have both come to acknowledge that bringing together their respective advanced technologies and customer bases is vital in building a competitive business globally. Focusing on system LSI marketing, design and development under a fabless model, Fujitsu and Panasonic aim to achieve future growth in system LSI businesses.``

Japan's once proud chip giants have suffered a dramatic reversal in fortunes over recent years, ultimately leading to Elipda's acquisition by Micron and a $1.8 billion government-led bailout of Renesas.

In other IT news

As you probably all know by now, Windows XP's expiration date of support and security updates officially ended as of Tuesday this week. With about 21 percent of all personal computers still running Windows XP, there's a good chance you are among those whose computer is now running an unsupported operating system. That could leave the door open to some serious hacking down the road.

And doing an upgrade to Windows 7 isn't a good option either. Yes, it will keep all your apps and settings, but it'll also preserve all the clutter and some very bloated files that slows down an old Windows install, and you're still limited to 32-bit Windows 7.

What you need to do is to reformat the hard drive, start all over, and reinstall all your programs and software.

But you'll be happy to learn that there's another, albeit little-known secret to replace your old, unsupported XP operating system with a new one that's fairly secure, current, gets regular Microsoft security updates and comes free of charge.

The solution is to simply run Windows XP as a 'Zombie OS' on something else. Chances are you're already using Windows XP for a particular application that's incompatible with 64-bit Windows. Backwards compatibility with legacy code was dropped to keep the size and complexity of the OS down.

In fact, Vista was the first 64-bit version of Windows to see some adoption, even if that OS never won the hearts of nobody, when its users suddenly found that some of their beloved but ancient apps didn't work any more.

So, MS' Windows 7 introduced a workaround-- run in Windows XP Mode. This is a free download for Windows 7 Pro and above, comprising two files-- a compressed virtual machine containing a complete, pre-installed copy of XP Pro, and a copy of Microsoft's free desktop Hypervisor Virtual PC, preconfigured to run that copy of XP with desktop integration.

In that manner, Windows XP appears on Windows 7's desktop and so on. This has been dropped in Windows 8.x – the newer OS has its own built-in hypervisor, and by now, you're meant to be running 64-bit native apps anyway.

But Windows XP Mode still remains a free download, and with a little work, you can get it running on the cheaper editions of Windows 7, or Windows 8.x – and even on Linux Ubuntu. All you need is a different hypervisor.

If you're a committed VMware user, then the freeware VMware Player will do, but otherwise, Oracle's Virtual Box is free and open source as well.

You only need proprietary code for the extension pack, which adds USB2 support among other things – but it's still free!

You can download the XP Mode VM freely from Microsoft's website, but to do so, your PC needs to pass Windows Genuine Authentication. Once you have the file, you'll need an archiver to unpack it.

You need an XP licence, of course – the copy in the VM is keyed against Virtual PC's emulated hardware and will fail when running on VirtualBox, so you're going to need a valid XP Pro licence key.

Microsoft handily includes a key in the download file ("sources\XPM\KEY"), but the chances are it won't work. Of course, you may well have one on a sticker on your PC case or knocking around somewhere.

Once you've unzipped the downloaded file, you'll find another archive ("sources\xpm") inside it. Extract that, too. In there, there is a VirtualPC VM image and its virtual hard disk ("VirtualXPVHD").

Next, create a new Windows VM. Move Virtual XPVHD into your new VM's folder ("~\VirtualBox VMs\XP Mode"), insert a full stop in the appropriate place ("VirtualXP.VHD"), and when VirtualBox asks whether to create a new virtual HD or use an existing one, choose it.

Source: Google.

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