Google Cloud Wins SpaceX Contract for Starlink Internet Connectivity
Google announced Thursday that its cloud unit has won an agreement to provide computing and network resources to SpaceX, Elon Musk’s private space development firm, to help provide internet service through its Starlink satellites.
SpaceX will set up ground stations in Google data centers that connect to SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, with the aim of providing fast internet service to businesses in the second half of this year.
The deal represents a victory for Google as it strives to take shares from Amazon and Microsoft in the rapidly growing cloud computing market.
Investors are counting on Google’s nascent cloud business to drive growth if its advertising activity slows. While Google’s cloud business only generated 7% of total revenue for parent company Alphabet in the first quarter, it grew nearly 46% year-over-year, versus growth. 32% for Google advertising services.
It’s also an unusual type of deal for Google – or any other cloud provider – as it relies heavily on Google’s internal network that connects data centers, rather than just outsourcing functions like computing power or data storage at these data centers.
“It’s one of a kind. I don’t think anything like this has been done before,” said Bikash Koley, head of global networks at Google. “The real potential of this technology has become very evident. The power of combining the cloud with universal secure connectivity is a very powerful combination.”
“They chose us because of the quality of our network and the distribution and reach of our network,” said Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google’s cloud group.
Amazon popularized the public cloud business with the 2006 launch of general-purpose computing and storage tools from its Amazon Web Services division. Google launched its own IT department in 2012. But over the past two decades, Google has also spent money putting together a private fiber-optic network to connect its data centers, Koley said. While much of Google’s cloud growth has come from supporting the computing and storage needs of customers like Goldman Sachs and Snap, the SpaceX deal will rely heavily on the networking capabilities of Google.
Cloud providers have increasingly focused on the telecommunications industry, especially with the rise of 5G connectivity. Last month, for example, Amazon said Dish would use the AWS infrastructure to provide 5G service to consumers.
In the case of SpaceX, there is no need for cell phone towers. Instead, customer devices will communicate with the satellites, and then the satellites will connect to Google data centers. Inside these data centers, customers can quickly run applications using Google’s cloud services or send the information to the services of other companies that are geographically close, allowing low latency for minimal lag. The data then flows back directly through Google data centers to the satellites and then to end users.
The deal could last seven years, according to a person who declined to be named, discussing confidential terms.
Starlink’s service could be invaluable to consumers living in places with limited internet access, as well as businesses and government organizations with projects in remote areas, Kurian said. He predicts that the fact that Starlink relies on Google’s cloud network will lead organizations to deploy applications in Google’s cloud to take advantage of the high speeds.
Google isn’t the only cloud provider working with Starlink.
In October, Microsoft said he was working with SpaceX to bring Starlink internet connectivity to Azure modular cloud data centers that customers can deploy anywhere. SpaceX would still rely on Google data centers in this scenario, a person familiar with the matter said. (The data would flow from the customer’s Azure modular data center via the Starlink satellite to Google’s data center, then to other cloud services – and back in the opposite direction. “Our current partnership with SpaceX Starlink provides a satellite. high-speed, low-latency broadband to extend our Azure capabilities with global satellite connectivity and unlock cloud computing in more scenarios, ”a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC in an email.“ Efforts are being made. currently underway to expand these scenarios and we’ll have more to share in the coming months. “)
Initially, SpaceX will deploy the ground stations in Google’s data centers in the United States, but the company is keen to expand internationally, the person said.
SpaceX is one of the world’s most valuable private start-ups, having raised funds to a valuation of $ 74 billion in February, CNBC reported. Google invested $ 900 million in SpaceX in 2015. SpaceX launched more than 1,500 Starlink satellites into orbit, and last week the company said more than 500,000 people had ordered or made a depot for the Internet service.
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