What Changes are in Store for Google's Data Center Infrastructure with New CIO, Ben Fried?

News.com reports on Google's new CIO hire Ben Friend from Morgan Stanley.

Google found its new chief information officer, Ben Fried, on Wall Street--and at least on paper, it looks like a good fit.


Even though Google is a Silicon Valley company thousands of miles away from the buttoned-down brokers of lower Manhattan, the two domains have more in common technologically and culturally than one might think.

Wall Street companies and Google have different objectives, but both have a similar modus operandi. They use lots of cutting-edge computer equipment, often with plenty of in-house customization, to get ahead of the competition.

Most companies buy off-the-shelf software, but Wall Street firms like to write their own. Indeed, one of the areas under Fried's purview at Morgan Stanley was managing source code. Google takes this custom engineering philosophy a step further, building its own hardware, too. That's an important cultural commonality.

"They have a very similar attitude: 'Dammit, we can do it better than anyone else,'" said Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice.

This point of being better than anyone else is where it will be interesting what the effects are of Ben Fried's arrival.  How hard is it going to be for Ben to institute changes as an outsider? How good are the Google guys vs. the staff at Morgan Stanley? Does Ben have a doctorate degree?

WSJ wrote about the previous CIO Douglas Merrill.

How do you run the information-technology department at a company whose employees are considered among the world's most tech-savvy?

Douglas Merrill, Google Inc.'s chief information officer, is charged with answering that question. His job is to give Google workers the technology they need, and to keep them safe -- without imposing too many restrictions on how they do their job. So the 37-year-old has taken an unorthodox approach.

Unlike many IT departments that try to control the technology their workers use, Mr. Merrill's group lets Google employees download software on their own, choose between several types of computers and operating systems, and use internal software built by the company's engineers. Lately, he has also spent time evangelizing to outside clients about Google's own enterprise-software products -- such as Google Apps, an enterprise version of Google's Web-based services including email, word processing and a calendar.

Mr. Merrill, who has surfer-length hair and follows a T-shirt dress code, studied social and political organization at the University of Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., and then went on to earn master's and doctorate degrees in psychology from Princeton University. His education in IT came largely from jobs as an information scientist at RAND Corp., senior manager at Price Waterhouse and senior vice president at Charles Schwab & Co. He joined Google in late 2003.

We sat down with Mr. Merrill to talk about Google's approach to IT. Excerpts:

The Wall Street Journal: What's the structure of the IT organization at Google?

Mr. Merrill: We're a decentralized technology organization, in that almost everyone at Google is some type of technologist. At most organizations, technology is done by one organization, and is very locked-down and very standardized. You don't have the freedom to do anything. Google's model is choice. We let employees choose from a bunch of different machines and different operating systems, and [my support group] supports all of them. It's a little bit less cost-efficient -- but on the other hand, I get slightly more productivity from my [Google's] employees.

WSJ: How do you support all of those different options effectively?

Mr. Merrill: We offer a lot more self-service. For example, let's say you want a new application to do something. You could take your laptop to a tech stop [areas in Google offices where workers can get technical support], but you can also go to an internal Web site where you download it and install the software. We allow all users to download software for themselves.