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Ever Wonder What the Internet Looks Like?

One cool perk of my job is working next to a headend. A headend is a datacenter with rows and rows of equipment that allow you to call your family on the other side of the country, browse your social media feed, and watch your favorite TV show, or ask Google a question. On a bigger scale the headend connects cell phone calls and supports businesses. It is a bridge between you, the internet and the rest of the world.

A project for our client may require a trip into a headend to verify equipment types and locations. From the outside, it looks unassuming. A windowless building, some cables, industrial grade HVAC. However, upon pushing the doors open it inspires a sense of awe when greeted with towering equipment that seems like it should be on a movie set. You will find numerous (and sometimes massive) copper and fiber cables, and a roar of thousands of fans working hard to keep all this equipment from cooking itself.

Just like a busy airport transports its passengers in and out of town, a headend does the same with data. Googling something? The request leaves your home with a destination address through pole lines and underground trenches as it heads toward the headend. Upon arrival, the headend sees the address and puts the data onto a very high-speed transport network possibly shipping it around the world passing through multiple networks, headends, ISP’s, and countries until it lands at the Google server where the address matches. If your data had a passport, you may be surprised at the locations that are stamped.  The whole process happens again when Google sends back the requested search info. In 2017, the amount of internet traffic on Google searches alone is staggering 5.2 Billion daily searches.

Think about that journey the next time you hit enter in your search bar.

Jeremy Bourque, Technical Planner Missing Link Technologies ltd.

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