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What I missed in the Google vs. Amazon cloud debate — fiber!

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One big potential advantage the Google(s goog) Cloud Platform could have over market-leader Amazon(s amzn) Web Services is in networking, something I missed in a post on the topic last week.

As Cloudscaling co-founder and CEO Randy Bias subsequently pointed out, Google has been very busy building out a massive fiber network, something Om wrote about back in 2005 and Stacey Higginbotham has been covering in the years since.

Having big, fast pipes available to your — and your customers’ traffic — is a huge deal. Google, along with Yahoo and Microsoft, have been on the stick with fiber deployments, Bias said. And Google, in particular, now has massive networks  connecting its data centers that can handle terabit speeds. Oh and a number of fiber deployments to the home in Austin, Texas, Kansas City, Missouri, and Provo Utah

“By some measurements Google is the 2nd or 3rd largest ISP in the USA,” Bias wrote.

Dark, or unused fiber is rare and expensive to deploy so if you do it, you better know you’ll fill it up soon.

Said Bias:

“If you own the dark fiber and light it yourself, you can continue to push more bandwidth across the same strands by using new DWDM gear on either side. If you *don’t* have dark fiber, you only have access to “lit fiber” that limits how much traffic you can push across.”

It seems that Google’s fiber would give it a leg up vis-a-vis AWS barring the possibility that AWS is building out its own massive fiber network which as far as I can tell isn’t happening.

But in any case, Bias’ conclusion is that public cloud is a two-horse race between AWS and Google. That backs up Cloudscaling’s decision last year to make sure it’s OpenStack implementations will support both AWS and Google APIs.

10 Responses to “What I missed in the Google vs. Amazon cloud debate — fiber!”

  1. 1: Plenty of exchanges out there, so owning fiber isn’t novel or particularly relevant. Negotiate a peering agreement with eg: Hurricane Electric (largest ISP with open peering agreements) or buy Layer 3 transit rights if you’re desperate for high quality connectivity.

    2: Layer 2 transport rights over owned fiber can be purchased from numerous providers should you need particularly high point to point capability. And if you’re going exchange to exchange (rather than exchange to your location) those rights are generally fairly affordable. Unfortunately no one has commoditized that particular service so you’ve got a lot of map scrutinizing, calling and worrying about latency if you’re interested in buying.

    3: Dark fiber isn’t rare. The price has gone up some in the past decade, but if you’re legit in the market for it you’re from an established entity that probably spends more per month on electricity.

    4: Many companies own absurd amounts of unlit fiber that they’ve acquired via M&A and haven’t bothered to map out or don’t even know that they own. So enjoy those ridiculous search costs.

    5: The vast majority of corporate entities do not need unlit fiber, and owning it does not confer a significant competitive advantage.

    • JohnnyFrisco

      I am very familiar with what Google has and what AWS is doing. I can confirm AWS is very limited in their fiber transport buildout, only now looking into Optical Spectrum offerings from the carriers. They do use dark fiber between datacenters within the metro, but on the long-haul, they pretty much have nothing.

      Whereas, Google has dark fiber across USA, parts of Europe and of course submarine cable ownership at the notional level for APAC. I am familiar enough to know that it took Google almost 3 years to completely build out their US dark fiber networks. And they have a very large team of human talent sourced from all over the world to accomplish this dark fiber network construction.

  2. Um, isn’t it presumptuous to think that a vendor operating at AWS’s scale doesn’t have fiber capacity? The parent company, Amazon, has been in the biz since the 90s. To assume that they are going to ‘be caught flat footed’ and have no fiber capacity *if that even really matters*, is kind of silly.

    Put another way: “Does Google know it’s going to need server and storage capacity? I hear AWS has been buying lots of disk drives!”

    • No. It’s based on first hand knowledge of how much dark fiber has been bought up and the inventory left on hand. Buddies of mine run the global Microsoft and Yahoo networks. Another one was the top fiber sales person for AboveNet for 5 years.

      Here is an exercise for you. Go and try to price dark vs lit fiber from your preferred fiber vendor. They probably won’t even give you a dark fiber option.

  3. ReportingOffOfBlogs

    I think most folks here got it right, its not such a big issue really. At least for the public cloud players AWS and GCE. Anyway, if anyone needs to worry about running out of bandwidth its netflix (which runs atop aws) first not google.

  4. Paul Smith

    Not such a big deal. First off AWS has the dark fiber option via Direct Connect. Plus, CDN/Route53 type options alleviate this issue. Moreover, this only becomes an issue of you are trying to stream massive amounts of data over the wire. Such as between your app server and DB. Most modern apps colocate app server with DB. They just stream the html result back, which does not require a fat pipe. Most internet apps would not work well today if dark fiber was such an issue.

    • Actually DirectConnect is not dark fiber. It is lit fiber. DirectConnect is only for interconnecting an AWS region with an outside datacenter. My argument is that Google’s advantage lies in its own WAN infrastructure BETWEEN its regions.

      No CDN/CloudFront does not address this issue as it’s about bandwidth between regions not internet bandwidth. Google has as much as 1.28Tbps in between datacenters. This is very different from a 10Gbps DirectConnect. About 100x different.

      This kind of bandwidth between regions means that moving big data sets around is much easier. This matters if you want to sync large multi-TB databases, move big data, or migrate large VMs.

      This isn’t about Internet access. It’s about Google’s internal WAN.

  5. Leroy Smoothington

    Owning fiber is one thing, but deploying POPs in larger interconnect points( Coresite, Telx and others) exponentially increases reach. AWS gets that and soon Google will too.