Book review: Tubes, by Andrew Blum

By Giles Broadbent on June 25, 2012 1:03 PM |

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BOOK
Tubes, by Andrew Blum
Penguin
★★★✩✩

IN A NUTSHELL
There is no cloud - there are just lots and lots of wires leading to lots and lots of data centres. Andrew Blum follows his emails down the pipes.

REVIEW
There should be a word for it - there probably is - but I'm going to plump for a phrase instead - total immersive reading.

The book is Tubes: Behind The Scenes At The Internet and author Andrew Blum is in Britain.

He started his journey looking for the physical aspects of the net - the exchanges, the cables, data warehouses - in his homeland of America and now he's over here to examine the European connections.

And he talks about this place, this hub, "the Heathrow of the internet" that is a crossroads - maybe a spaghetti junction - of the internet that is like a worldwide pinch point for the entire structure. Seemingly, it all goes through this exchange centre, he says.

The company is Telehouse and it is sited in the Docklands. I look up from the book to check my station. We're at East India DLR. So is the author. He's off to Telehouse, this Mecca, this icon. I see it, right next the Tower Hamlets Town Hall.

So that's what that is. Who would have guessed? Did you?

In the book, Blum satisfactorily kills off the notion that there's a cloud. I'm e-mailing this story - and there's a physical link to the receiver.

There has to be although we tend to characterise the net in more nebulous terms. Blum shows us behind the curtain where there's lots and lots of yellow cable.

Revelatory stuff if a bit dry. Catnip for network nerds.