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Google's Own Private Internet

Search giant is spending hundreds of millions on a core global network to serve up content

September 20, 2005

4 Min Read
Google's Own Private Internet

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is building a network so massive that several service provider specialists believe it could end up with one of the world's largest core transport networks, effectively building its own private Internet.

”This is huge,” says Hunter Newby, chief strategy officer with carrier connection specialist Telx, pointing to several recent indications of the Google network’s scale. “It’s scary. They’re not fooling around.”

Light Reading, which has previously reported on Google's telecom aspirations, has learned that Google is well underway at putting the pieces together (see Headcount: Great Googly Moogly!, Google Backs Powerline Carrier, and Google Talks the Talk). It is accumulating hundreds of thousands of square feet of carrier hotel space that could host giant server farms, buying up fiber, and issuing large RFPs for DWDM and Ethernet-based telecom equipment that could total in the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to multiple sources at carriers and equipment vendors.

By building a core of transport techologies and peering directly to the world's leading incumbent telcos and PTTs, Google could end up securing and controlling distribution of much of the world's Internet traffic, say the sources. Its massive server farms would have a direct link to the backbone.

Google did not return phone calls for this article. In the past, when asked about its telecom networks, the company has declined comment.

One indication of the size of the product is Google’s recent real estate activities. Crains New York Business reported yesterday that Google acquired the rights to 270,000 square feet of space at 111 8th avenue in Manhattan, which is a large telecom interconnection facility. That space is expected to be populated with telecom equipment and server farms running Google's search and other applications such as GoogleTalk (see Google Talks the Talk).

Another service provider operator, speaking under condition of anonymity, says Google's got big plans on the West Coast, where it is negotiating for large amounts of carrier hotel space and hopes to connect to Asia through the largest fiber peering points.

”I could tell you more but they would kill me,” says the interconnection specialist.

Why does Google want to do this? One idea is simply to reduce its telecom costs and peering fees, which many believe are significant. Another idea is that by building its own core network and focusing on Layer 1 and Layer 2, Google could control the distribution and security of much of the content and traffic distributed over the Internet. In a sense, it would be a higher-performance Internet, such as the research network, Internet2.

”My understanding is they want to do remote peering and transit bypass,” says Bill St. Arnaud, senior director of advanced networks at Canarie Inc., who has heard scuttlebutt about the Google network. “By building their own distribution network they don’t have to pay peering costs. Remote peering and transit costs are significant for all the big Internet players. So everybody is thinking of doing this.”

Naturally, equipment provider mouths are watering over the project. Several sources tell Light Reading that Google has issued a DWDM RFP that could be one of the largest Tier 1 service provider contracts, with the total value expected to be in the $100 million ballpark. {dirlink 2|75}, sources say, is particularly excited about bidding on the RFP, given its recent victory in similar DWDM networks at {dirlink 5|11} and {dirlink 5|108}, says one source. Others believed to be in the bidding include Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), {dirlink 2|94}, {dirlink 2|63}, and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

Because Google is acquiring its own fiber and building Layer 1 and Layer 2 equipment at global interconnection facilities, it can create its peering points at large interconnection facilities, sources say. This would allow it to peer with global PTTs and keep much of its own traffic in a private Layer 2 network, securing and speeding up the performance of much of its traffic.

”This could create a shift in where public IP interconnects,” speculates Newby. “Traditionally, people went to Internet peering points. But because Google is so large, it could be the Internet. People would go there and never leave.”

— R. Scott Raynovich, US Editor, Light Reading

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