Google's insurance policy

27 Feb 2008

Google stole the headlines, but the biggest news about Unity is the massive increment to Asian bandwidth.

Demand for trans-Pacific bandwidth is doubling every two years, says TeleGeography. Prices are eight times higher than on trans-Atlantic routes, it says.

Google's manager of network acquisitions, Francois Sterin, says on the company blog that meeting escalating Asian bandwidth is "one of the biggest challenges we face".

Fully-lit, Unity will bring 7.68 Tbps, or an extra 20%, to the trans-Pac route, although the partners are not saying how much will be lit at launch time in 2010.

Unity is obviously going impact capacity prices. It will also affect the timeline and viability of other planned cables, such as the Asian-American Gateway.

Google aside, Unity's backers are an interesting mix of traditional club owners, like SingTel and KDDI, rising telcos such as Bharti and Pacnet, and Malaysian telehousing operator Global Transit, little known outside its home market. Unlike the unwieldy club model, the hybrid club-private approach means each investor gets to control its own piece of the cable.

It's worth noting who's not in the group: in particular, no US telcos, sworn enemies of Google and other internet companies, who they see as free-riders on their infrastructure.

So as well as providing at-cost capacity, Unity is Google's bandwidth insurance policy.

For all that, Google's investment in cable is consistent with the company's DIY philosophy. It builds its own servers and owns and runs some of the world's largest data centers. When it needs to scale, Google will build rather than buy.

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