Is catching up with Google better, or worse, for Microsoft's data centers?

Tim’s database entry this morning led me to Greg Linden’s excellent blog. You should check out his Early Amazon series — it’s well worth it.

One of Greg’s posts talks about Microsoft’s effort to replicate Google’s datacenters. He writes:

This spending is an explicit part of Microsoft’s strategy in the search war. In a Fortune article, Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie said that the cost of building these massive online clusters is a huge barrier to entry and that “the people who could build a viable [Web] services infrastructure of scale are companies that have both the will and the capacity to invest staggering amounts of money.”

This made me think of a quote Jason Fried sent me a while back:

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked….A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.

I wonder if Microsoft has an advantage in building its cluster, through its “staggering amounts of money” and its hindsight analysis of Google’s development; or if instead, as Gall suggests, trying to start out at the current scale of Google will lead them to fall into traps Google grew up learning to avoid.