Why Tech Giants Are Investing Millions on Undersea Data Systems

Technology Titans investing in Underwater Data Cables

An Undersea data cable, also known as submarine communications cable, is a cable laid on the sea bed between land-based stations to carry telecommunication signals across oceans’ stretches.

The modern cables use optical fiber technology to carry digital data, which includes telephone, internet, and private data traffic. Satellites are also useful for distributing content from one source to multiple locations but, on a bit-for-bit basis, there’s just no beating fiber-optic cables. These Cables can carry far more data at far less cost than satellites.

Undersea Data Network’s Promising Future

Globally, about 2.5 quintillions of data are generated every single day through emails, search engines, tweets, videos, etc. Data centers are storehouses of these data spread across thousands of square kilometers that need to be accessed without any downtime. However, building and maintaining data centers is a capital-heavy business and interestingly tech giants are analyzing the opportunities to invest in underwater data cables, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

There is big growth in the sector now because of the fast-rising requirements of cloud-based technology businesses and their customers, as well as the demand for greater capacity from financial services companies seeking the smallest possible delays in transaction times (known as latency).

Global Connectivity

Companies are investing in undersea cables to connect their global data centers in a bid to bolster their cloud business capabilities amid fierce competition.

“As people and organizations expect data and information at their fingertips Microsoft must have an infrastructure that can deliver the cloud services… which our customers need to support their global businesses,” David Crowley, managing director of network enablement at Microsoft. “The goal of our expansions and investments in subsea cables is so our customers have the greatest access to scale and highly available data, anywhere,” he adds.

Faster Data Transfer

The cables transfer data across the world to customers at rapid speeds, which the companies hope will give them an edge over their competitors.

“At Google we want our products to be fast and reliable, and that requires a great network infrastructure, whether it’s for the more than a billion Android users or developers building products on Google Cloud Platform. And sometimes the fastest path requires going through an ocean,” says Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure, Urs Hölzle.

“That’s why we’re investing in FASTER, a new undersea cable that will connect major West Coast cities in the US to two coastal locations in Japan with a design capacity of 60 Tbps (that’s about ten million times faster than your cable modem).”

Increased Capacity

Undersea data cable addresses the traffic demands for broadband and mobile content. These data cables are capable of carrying larger amounts of data when compared to satellites. There are more than 200 fiber optic cables in the undersea network that transports Internet data across the world – carrying more than 95% of the transoceanic voice and data traffic. Underwater cables carried 51 billion gigabytes of data per month in 2013, and that figure is expected to swell to 132 billion gigabytes by 2018, according to a report by Builtvisible.

Data Traffic Control

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 Najam Ahmad, Facebook’s vice president of network engineering, 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.

Just 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.”

Animated map shows the undersea cables that power the internet

Regardless of the sectors, data centers have become the nerve center of operations for many companies as these undersea data cables are far more durable and reliable sources allowing the tech titans to more efficiently move enormous amounts of information between the multiple computer data centers and network hubs that underpin their popular online services.

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