Innovation ousts orthodoxy. Soft-switch has replaced telephone exchange equipment. Undersea optical fiber cables have marginalized satellites in intercontinental and transcontinental connectivity. Terrestrial optical fiber networks – along the highways, railway tracks, power grids and gas pipelines – are replacing microwave radio links. All these physical networks lead to data centers at home and abroad.
State-owned Myanmar Post and Telecommunication (MPT) is a member of the prehistoric SEA-ME-WE3 and very recent SEA-ME-WE5 submarine cable consortiums. MPT also shares the landing facilities with China Unicom, which brings a branch of Asia Africa Europe-1 (AAE-1) cable to the country. This is how the incumbent has secured the landing of two contemporary submarine cable systems. The government has also injected competition and licensed the Singapore-based Campana Group to build the Myanmar-Thailand International Connection (MYTHIC) submarine cable. Last year Campana has contracted Alcatel-Lucent to build the 1,600km MYTHIC cable, equipped with 100Gbps technology for an initial design capacity of 20Tbps.
The book “Tubes” by Andrew Blum has been in the LIRNEasia office since 2013. The idea that there was a hard infrastructure making the Internet possible is not novel for people like us who live with the Internet failing for our people in Myanmar and Bangladesh and various other places frequently. But this is a good read in Quartz: Mobile networks and cloud computing make the internet feel seamlessly invisible. But behind phones, apps and laptops lies a physical infrastructure with cables and buildings that shuttle and store our all of our information. For its ubiquity, the nuts and bolts of the web isn’t necessarily the most immediately visible.
Our lead on international backhaul, Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan, has been talking about data centers along with fiber cables for some time. Here is the back story, as explained by APNIC’s Geoff Huston. The original motivation of the exchange was to group together a set of comparable local access providers to allow them to directly peer with each other. The exchange circumvented paying the transit providers to perform this cross-connect, and as long as there was a sizeable proportion of local traffic exchange, then exchanges filled a real need in replacing a proportion of the transit provider’s role with a local switching function. However, exchange operators quickly realised that if they also included data centre services at the exchange then the local exchange participants saw an increased volume of user traffic that could be provided at the exchange, and this increased the relative importance of the exchange.
We at LIRNEasia have always emphasized the significance of the physical infrastructure that makes the Internet possible. That is possibly because we work in parts of the world where the infrastructure is still being built up. Our long engagement with ESCAP on the Asia Pacific Information Superhighway (APIS) is testimony to this. It is in this context that this piece about the data centers that support much of the “cloud” caught my attention. This led to an outcropping of office parks that housed not only defense contractors, but also government IT and time-sharing services and, later, companies like MCI, AOL, and UUNet.
It has been estimated that submarine cables carry traffic associated with over US$10 trillion in transactional value globally per day. It is being also claimed that submarine cables transport 99% of the international data worldwide. These are largely true, yet exaggerated marketing pitch. Terrestrial cables also carry huge volume of international data traffic across the borders, especially within Europe and across the Eurasian routes. It, however, makes no difference with the consumers as long as they remain online.
Myanmar takes another giant leap in telecoms. Burst Networks of Myanmar has engaged Swedish telecom infrastructure specialist Flexenclosure to build a multi-million dollar Tier 4 data center. This customized prefabricated modular facility will be built in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone in Yangon. Construction will take place at Flexenclosure’s factory in Vara, Sweden, with deployment in Myanmar in early 2016. It will comply with the Uptime Institute’s highly stringent classification of redundancy, fault tolerance and availability.
Indian government has endured stormy opposition when Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), its international telecoms arm, was privatized in early 2000. Since then, through merger and acquisition along with new build-outs, the Indian carriers – Tata, Reliance and Bharti – dominate the global connectivity business. Moreover, each submarine cable linking Asia with the Middle East, Africa and Europe hops in India due to its location. Therefore, like Japan in transpacific and the United Kingdom in transatlantic routes, India could emerge as a formidable transoceanic telecoms connectivity hub in the region. That has not happened, primarily, due to the Indian carriers’ mindless obsession for dominance.
Are still slow, but how will they be lagging behind? And once the Americans screw up the data confidentiality safeguards, cost may be the decider. In terms of performance, Alibaba cannot come close. For a Chinese site, it does impressive work, handling $5.8 billion in commerce on China’s heaviest shopping day.
We’ve been writing about the dangers posed by the governments of the places where data are stored wanting access. Now, with US courts trying to exercise extra-territorial jurisdiction, it looks like China might be a safe place? Apple Inc has begun storing personal data for some Chinese users on servers provided by China Telecom, marking the first time that the company has stored user data on mainland Chinese soil. Apple attributed the move to an effort to improve the speed and reliability of its service. It also represents a departure from the policies of some technology companies, notably Google Inc, which has long refused to build data centres in China due to censorship and privacy concerns.
So it’s not just the companies that actually purchase capacity from cloud service companies. Everyone. Google has a big cloud, too. You’re on it if you use any sort of Google service like email and photo editing. Seventy million Nigerians recently registered for local elections on Google’s cloud and millions more people study on Google’s cloud through the online educational service Khan Academy.
We flagged this as a critical issue in our contribution to the UNCTAD Information Economy Report, written before Snowden. Now the rubber is hitting the road and billions of revenue are at stake. The Snowden leaks and the view that American tech companies were too cooperative with the United States government have hurt the prospects for American tech companies abroad. Earlier estimates of potential lost sales over the next few years have ranged as high as $180 billion, or 25 percent of industry revenue, according to Forrester Research. To address those concerns, the companies are building more data centers abroad.
The demand for massive data centers close to consumers will increase rapidly as cloud services proliferate and data traffic increases. Yet, they will not emerge everywhere. Just having cheap renewables-based electricity is not enough, as is shown by Singapore and Dubai becoming attractive sites. A whole eco-system is needed. “There is major demand coming from IT-enabled service providers, online portals, e-commerce companies, stock brokerages, and insurance firms,” said Sunil Gupta, president and chief operating officer at Netmagic Solutions, a data centre company which was acquired by Japan’s NTT in January 2012.
Fury of Sandy hasn’t spared anything that a modern society survives on. Unlike most of the cities in America, the wooden power poles don’t exist across the downtown of New York and Manhattan. But the underground power cable systems are submerged by stagnant salty water from tidal wave. Barb Darrow posted a chilling account of consequences in Gigaom: As already reported, data center facilities in lower Manhattan suffered a string of outages after flooding and Con Ed cut electrical power. Datagram, the web hosting company that serves the Huffington Post, Gawker, Gizmodo and BuzzFeed, went down Monday evening after flooding caused those sites to go dark.
Increasingly, we are finding that it is impossible to talk about ICTs, without also talking about electricity. Interesting new development on that front is reported by NYT. EBay plans to use about six million watts of power generated on-site by fuel cells, which are a substantially cleaner and more efficient source of energy than coal, in its new data center in South Jordan, Utah. The company also operates PayPal, the online payment service, out of the South Jordan site. Bloom Energy, a private company in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Telephony and electricity have been always intertwined. AC (alternating current) won over DC (direct current), but DC lived on in the wireline network, where it powered the telephone independently of the electrical grid. Now, with increasing interest in data centers and in their energy efficiency, DC is coming back, according to the NYT. But those constant conversions cause power losses. For example, in conventional data centers, with hundreds of computers, electricity might be converted and “stepped down” in voltage five times before being used.