Wednesday, September 12, 2007

University of Arizona Tech Talk

Posted by Patrick Copeland, Test Engineering Director

I visited the University of Arizona last night, along with several Googlers, as part of a series of Tech Talks being given at selected schools. The talk was about GFS (Google File System). The auditorium was standing room only, with a turn out of over 150 computer science and computer engineering students (probably enticed with the free pizza and t-shirts :^). We really appreciated the turn out and the enthusiasm for Google. The questions following the talk were great and we probably could have gone on for several hours. I had a chance to talk to a few folks afterwards about their projects ranging from security research, to traffic simulation. I also met one of the professors and discussed the potential of doing some joint research.

During the trip I also visited my grandmother who lives in Tucson. I was showing her a picture of my son on a BlackBerry. She was fascinated and asked me how it worked. I started to think about how to explain it and in that moment, it humbled me to think about the number of complex systems employed to do such a simple thing. Displaying a photo from a web page includes device side operating systems, run time languages, cell technology, network stacks, cell receivers, routers, serving front and back-ends,…and more. An interesting side note: the bits for my jpg file ultimately get stored at Google in GFS, the topic of my talk that night. Obviously, each part of that chain is complex and important to get my simple scenario to work. I started to explain it in plain language and she quickly stopped me and said that when she was a child her family had a crank operated “party-line” phone, where multiple families shared a single line. What hit me was that even though technology has gotten more complex, the types of scenarios we are enabling are still very basic and human: communicating, sharing, and connecting people. Even with all of the automated testing that we do, deep testing done from the perspective of customers is still absolutely critical.

Again, thanks to the students at the University of Arizona. Bear Down! We’re looking forward to visiting all of the schools on our list this season.


  1. Please add a link to your "our list this season".

  2. Good question. I posted a blog entry to answer this today (9/18).


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