Facebook And Microsoft Expanding Global Data Transfer By Using ‘Dark Fiber’ On Ocean Floor

With so much data flowing across their systems, these companies are scrambling to build new infrastructure. In addition to building its own undersea cable, Facebook is buying up what’s called “dark fiber”—unused terrestrial cables—so that it can control how its data moves from place to place and move it more efficiently. According to Ahmad, Facebook is now using dark fiber “pretty much everywhere” as the company expands its network into new regions. And the same likely goes for Google and Microsoft.
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In addition to building its own undersea cable, Facebook is buying up what’s called “dark fiber”—unused terrestrial cables—so that it can control how its data moves from place to place and move it more efficiently

Facebook and Microsoft are laying a massive cable across the middle of the Atlantic. Dubbed MAREA—Spanish for “tide”—this giant underwater cable will stretch from Virginia to Bilbao, Spain, shuttling digital data across 6,600 kilometers of ocean. Providing up to 160 terabits per second of bandwidth—about 16 million times the bandwidth of your home Internet connection—it will allow the two tech titans to more efficiently move enormous amounts of information between the many computer data centers and network hubs that underpin their popular online services.

“If you look at the cable systems across the Atlantic, a majority land in the Northeast somewhere,” says Najam Ahmad, Facebook’s vice president of network engineering. “This gives us so many more options.”

The project expands the increasingly enormous computer networks now being built by the giants of the Internet as they assume a role traditionally played by telecom companies. Google has invested in two undersea cables that stretch from the West Coast of the United States to Japan, another that connects the US and Brazil, and a network of cables that connect various parts of Asia. Rather than just leasing bandwidth on undersea cables and terrestrial connections operated by telecoms, the likes of Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are building their own networking infrastructure both on land and across the seas.

The fact that these Internet giants are laying their own cables—at their own expense—shows just how much data these giants must move. Consider the services they run: Google offers its eponymous search engine, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Maps, and so many more. Microsoft offers Bing, Office 365, and its Azure cloud services. Facebook has its social network along with Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. The data moved by just a few online giants now dwarfs that of most others, so much so that, according to telecommunications research firm Telegeography, more than two thirds of the digital data moving across the Atlantic is traveling on private networks—namely networks operated by the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. That’s up from 10 percent just a few years ago. “It’s a tremendous change,” says Telegeography analyst Tim Stronge.

With so much data flowing across their systems, these companies are scrambling to build new infrastructure. In addition to building its own undersea cable, Facebook is buying up what’s called “dark fiber”—unused terrestrial cables—so that it can control how its data moves from place to place and move it more efficiently. According to Ahmad, Facebook is now using dark fiber “pretty much everywhere” as the company expands its network into new regions. And the same likely goes for Google and Microsoft.

“We’re starting to see more of the large Internet content providers looking to build more of their own networks—whether they are leasing dark fiber or laying down new cables to build new routes,” says Michael Murphy, president and CEO of telecom consultancy NEF. “It makes sense.”

In the past, Facebook has joined consortia that operate other undersea cables—groups typically made up of telecom companies—but this project is different. Rather than letting a group build and control the cable—that is, rather than sharing lines with others—the company is laying its own dedicated lines and it has the power to use them however it sees fit. In the end, this allows Facebook to expand its online empire much quicker than in the past. “The consortium model is much slower than what we would like,” Ahmad says.

Much the same applies to Microsoft. That said, the two Internet giants aren’t abandoning the telecom industry altogether. The pair have brought in another partner: Telxius, a subsidiary of Spanish telecom Telefónica. Telxius will operate the cable, and Facebook and Microsoft services will command most of its bandwidth. But Telxius will sell some capacity to other companies in need of trans-Atlantic connections.

The location of the cable also suits the specific needs of Facebook and Microsoft. Myriad undersea cables connect North America with Europe, but they don’t typically originate in Virginia. Even though Northern Virginia has long served as a major hub for Internet data centers, including facilities used by Facebook as well as dedicated data centers built by Microsoft and Amazon, the data itself typically flows through cables anchored in the New York area. With MAREA, Facebook will be able to more efficiently move information not only from facilities in Virginia but from its Facebook-owned and -operated data center in Rutherford County, North Carolina.

“To have a direct connection from Virginia lowers latency,” says Murphy—that is, the time it takes for data to flow from data centers to its ultimate destination. “And that probably provides better quality service.” Other companies are planning cables anchored in this same area, but MAREA will likely be the first. Construction is set to begin in August and completion is expected in October 2017.

Connecting Its Own Way

In connecting to Bilbao in Spain, Ahmad says, the cable will provide a more efficient path not only to Europe but to Africa, the Middle East, and even Asia. All three geographies are increasingly important to Facebook and other Internet giants as they seek new audiences and new sources of revenue. Spanning more than 1.5 billion people, the Facebook social network has saturated the US and European markets, so now the company must focus on new frontiers. And in many respects, that involves building new infrastructure.

Facebook is also working to fashion all sorts of new hardware that more rapidly pushes the Internet into those parts of the world that don’t already have it, from solar-powered high-altitude drones to a new breed of wireless antenna. Rather than relying solely on the world’s telecoms and telecom hardware makers, the company is fashioning its own hardware. And in the hopes of pushing this gear into the market, it intends to open source the designs, freely sharing them with the rest of the world.

A similar dynamic is at play with the new undersea cable. Rather than just use what the telecoms provide, the company is building on its own. And a key aspect of the project is that it’s free to use whatever equipment it pleases to plug into the cable. This isn’t necessarily the case with the consortium model. “You’re stuck with whatever system was built initially. And if there has to be an upgrade, all the partners in the consortium have to agree to that upgrade,” Ahmad says. “[The MAREA Project] gives us more control of our own destiny.”

The Real Telecoms

In some ways, this eats into a market once controlled by the big telecoms. “It’s going to get interesting. Who is the real telecommunications provider?” Murphy says. “It’s going to take some of their business away.”

Murphy compares this shift to how Amazon has gained greater and greater control of the infrastructure needed to ship physical packages from place to place, building its own distribution centers, launching its own fleet of trucks, and even exploring the possibility of delivering packages via drone. “The move is similar in the data space, where companies get to an economy of scale where it makes sense for them to handle their own traffic.”

But it should also be said that the Facebooks and the Googles and the Microsofts aren’t taking existing business from the telecoms. They’re just taking potential business. “This does mean that telecoms are carrying somewhat less of the content provider traffic than they would in the past,” says Telegeography’s Stronge. “But a lot of this capacity wasn’t even around a few years ago.”

When you consider that these Internet giants are also using their own dark fiber on land, the upshot is that they are, more and more, taking control of their own destiny. As Murphy points out, if they aren’t beholden to the telecoms, they aren’t beholden either to the whims and the prices of the telecoms or to any disputes over net neutrality (the notion that no company should receive preferential treatment on shared Internet lines.)

With its Fiber division, Google has even gone so far as to become an Internet service provider itself, laying down faster lines all the way to American homes. That means it can potentially control the length and breadth of the network, from you to its many data centers in many parts of the world, and back again. Google doesn’t quite control the entire path from its own data centers to everyone’s front doors. But that’s the direction it’s headed. And, well, so are Facebook and Microsoft. source

 

NTEB is run by end times author and editor-in-chief Geoffrey Grider. Geoffrey runs a successful web design company, and is a full-time minister of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition to running NOW THE END BEGINS, he has a dynamic street preaching outreach and tract ministry team in Saint Augustine, FL.

  • pam

    So interesting. This globe has been without borders since the birth of the internet, this technology was a game changer for globalism. Everything the Lord allows has a double edge sword. The event of the printing press and the effect it had on the spread of information to the television, the automobile, to the internet, it’s stunning. God allowed ALL of this to be created for one reason and one reason only, as a tool to spread the gospel and to learn Bible doctrine. It all comes back to that. However, Satan, the father of lies will always work to destroy what is good and use it for evil. Christians absolutely are without excuse, with all the technology at our fingertips, to neglect getting Bible doctrine on a DAILY basis for any reason whatsoever. As long a Christian is breathing he/she should take in the word daily, there are 24 hours in a day, the Christian that can’t even give his Savior 30 minutes to worship His word is the reason this country is in the shape it’s in. I’m not condemning, grace rules the Christian life, However, positive volition toward God’s word is a choice, a decision essential to a nations survival. It’s heartbreaking to see that the love and study of His word is far from a priority of the Christian living in the USA, if it were we wouldn’t be in the 4th cycle of discipline. Modern technology is 95% evil to the core, all of it, and it’s being used by Satan as a brainwashing tool. End of story

  • A Trober

    The earth will look like one giant rubber ball, or a golf ball with the outer covering taken off, if man keeps this up.

  • eddie santana

    Yep. And guess who’ll be paying for it afterwards…that’s right. The users.

  • John33

    Its all preperation for the mark thats coming. God is good

  • Rudy Ray

    And the earth will be covered with a web…..

  • Abby

    This article is heavily laced with ‘illuminati buzz words.” Dark Fiber – 3x (dark matter?); terrestrial (E.T.?); Control – 4x, how data moves, the length and breadth; MAREA – 2x, gives more control of our own destiny (Maria, Mary?) Virgin-ia; 6600 km, 160 terabits, 16 million; tech titans; underpin (support from below) giants – 7x 1)being built by giants, 2)giants are laying (in wait?) 3)giants must move, 4)giants now dwarf (humanity?), 5)giants are not abandoning, 6)giants seek new audiences and new sources, 7) giants are using their own dark fiber (DNA?) taking control of our own destiny; Azure cloud (azure portal); tremendous change (…you can believe in?); new frontiers, new infrastructure, new routes (terraforming?); power to use…however they see fit; FB, online empire; Telxius (Zeus?) will command, will sell, expand much quicker; a new breed, eats into a market… Google doesn’t quite control the entire path from its own data centers to everyone’s front doors. But that’s the direction it’s headed.

    I’m sure I missed a few, but WOW! Things seem to have been speeding up…moving quite rapidly…making the jump to light speed…

    • DC

      I thought similarly to you, Abby. Also, isn’t there a “dark web” in cyberspace that only certain people know how to get into? Other than dark chocolate 🙂 , the word itself gives me the willies, like the Dark Side of the Moon stuff.

      • Abby

        DC…I’m not sure if there is in real time, but I’ve seen it referenced on TV…CSI Cyber for the most part…and also other shows similar. It certainly would not surprise me.

  • Chel

    Ah yes there is a real dark web partly made from onions layers not eating onions by the way it names reference the many multy layered layers and tag racing the IPS address does in relays bouncing all over the continent some people like the dark web purely because of the anominity it provides as they feel the government is trying to watch and observe to much and some yes are up to no good

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