The pseudonymous Robert X. Cringely has an interesting take on what Google is really up to with its dark fiber acquisitions and growing number of data centers.
So why buy-up all that fiber, then?
The probable answer lies in one of Google's underground parking garages in Mountain View. There, in a secret area off-limits even to regular GoogleFolk, is a shipping container. But it isn't just any shipping container. This shipping container is a prototype data center. Google hired a pair of very bright industrial designers to figure out how to cram the greatest number of CPUs, the most storage, memory and power support into a 20- or 40-foot box. We're talking about 5000 Opteron processors and 3.5 petabytes of disk storage that can be dropped-off overnight by a tractor-trailer rig. The idea is to plant one of these puppies anywhere Google owns access to fiber, basically turning the entire Internet into a giant processing and storage grid.
According to Cringely, Google is basically going to drop its data centers into the network loop, reducing latency for users, cranking up connections at peering ISPs, and creating its own highly reliable, super redundant service grid. He goes on to say that the "Google Internet" will be "a new kind of marketplace for data with everything a transaction in the most literal sense as Google takes over the role of trusted third-party info-escrow agent for all world business." The virtual Wal-Mart.
Don't forget about Verisign in this picture, which like Cringely's Google scenario, touches much of the interactions that happen on the Internet. The future is shaping up to have a few major players who control, or serve, vast virtual territories. If this scenario plays out, Google's "do no evil" mantra will be rigorously tested. Also see Michael Parekh's take on Cringely's post.