Already helping to deliver as much as one-quarter of the world's Internet traffic, Google's network is about to get even bigger. The company announced today that it plans to add five new Google Cloud Platform regions to its current 13 in the year ahead.
Next year, Google also expects to commission three new undersea cables to strengthen Internet links between Chile and California, the U.S. and Europe, and Hong Kong and Guam. One of those projects will be a private venture, while the other two are headed by consortia.
The new regions and cables are aimed at strengthening and expanding Google's ability to provide customers with cloud-based services ranging from G Suite software, such as Gmail and Google Drive, to advanced products, such as its Machine Learning Engine. The company has already spent some $30 billion over the past three years with those goals in mind.
Evolution of Global Networks
Google's latest plans also highlight the ongoing transformation from an Internet at first developed largely through public financing and telecom-built infrastructure to one that's expanding more through investments by large tech companies. In a blog post today, Google vice president of engineering Ben Treynor Sloss contrasted his company's cloud services to those of other cloud providers that use the public Internet to deliver their services.
"While we haven't hastened the speed of light, we have built a superior cloud network as a result of the well-provisioned direct paths between our cloud and end-users," Sloss said. He pointed to a diagram comparing Google's network to other services with "the nondeterministic performance of the public Internet, or other cloud networks."
In 2008, Google was the first technology company to invest in the construction of a new subsea networking cable -- the trans-Pacific Unity cable -- through a consortium that included several international telecom firms. Since then, other tech companies have started making similar investments. In 2016, for example, Facebook and Microsoft joined together in a project to lay down 6,600 kilometers (4,100 miles) of high-speed cable across the Atlantic, from Virginia Beach to Bilbao, Spain.
Upon the Unity announcement 10 years ago, Francois Sterin, then Google's manager of network acquisitions, said the consortium was not a sign the company was going into the undersea cable business.
"We're not competing with telecom providers, but the volume of data we need to move around the world has grown to the point where in some cases we've exceeded the ability traditional players can offer," Sterin said at the time.
'Reluctant' Cable Building
Sloss expressed similar sentiments about Google's newest network expansion in an interview today with the Wall Street Journal.
"I would prefer not to have to be in the cable-building consortium business," Sloss told the newspaper. However, when looking at ways to grow its cloud businesses in regions like Australia and South America, "there weren't a lot of great options," he said.
Google's new subsea cables will include Curie, a privately developed, 6,200-mile link connecting Chile and Los Angeles; the 4,500-mile-long Havfrue, connecting the U.S., Denmark, and Ireland, built in partnership with Facebook, Aqua Comms, and Bulk Infrastructure; and the HK-G cable, a 2,400-mile connection between Hong Kong and Guam being developed along with RTI-C and NEC.
Before those projects get under way, Google plans to open five new cloud service regions in 2018. Two of those, located in Montreal and the Netherlands, are expected to begin operating in the first quarter of this year, followed by additional regions based in Los Angeles, Finland, and Hong Kong. Sloss said additional regions are also in the works.
"This investment means faster and more reliable connectivity for all our users," Sloss said in today's blog post. "Simply put, it wouldn't be possible to deliver products like Machine Learning Engine, Spanner, BigQuery and other Google Cloud Platform and G Suite services at the quality of service users expect without the Google network."