TMCnet Feature
September 11, 2012

Mysterious Google 'Pluto Switch' Turns up in Iowa

By David Delony, Contributing Writer

It's the computing equivalent of having aliens land on your front lawn: finding a mysterious networking device from Google (News - Alert).

That's exactly what happened in Iowa, when two men from the small town of Shelby snapped a picture with a smartphone of a small device apparently called a “pluto switch” in February.

The device appeared in a branch office where the two men worked. They tried to figure out how the device with a bunch of networking ports and writing in Finnish worked but to no avail. They posted pictures of the pluto switch to a networking forum in order to get some help.

They quickly determined that the real owner of the device was none other than the Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant itself, Google. A vendor code the switched used was registered to Google.

Google apparently did not respond to the men's phone calls at first, and when it did, it didn't explain what the switch was or what it did. Google did offer a reward for its return.

“Finally, got a hold of a Google network engineer, so the switches are heading home. He wouldn’t tell me what the connector type was so that’s still a mystery,” one of the men said on the forum “The engineer was cool and is going to send us some shirts the public can’t buy.”

 They requested anonymity after they spoke with Google.

Google designs and deploys its own hardware in its data centers around the world, saying it's one of the world's largest hardware manufacturers. Google keeps its hardware designs as a closely guarded trade secret.

The switch appears to have been custom-designed for Google for its online operations, using nonstandard networking ports. It appears to forgo the conventional physical networking layer for something more efficient and cost effective. The device can apparently handle 10 gigabits per second, while most conventional routers only support 1 gigabit per second.

The device was delivered to the distribution center in Iowa where the two men worked, apparently by mistake.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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