13 Jul

Microsoft and Facebook Have Teamed up to Build a Transatlantic Cable

Social media giant Facebook has teamed up with Microsoft, the world’s largest enterprise software vendor, to build a 4,100-mile long transatlantic underwater cable that will span from Northern Virginia on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. to Bilbao on the coast of Spain. The sub-sea cable, dubbed Marea, which is Spanish for “tide,” will carry 160 terabits of data per second, which is 16 million times the bandwidth of your home internet connection, and connect to massive data centers that will fan out to junction ports in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Marea, which is expected to be fully functional in October 2017, will be the single largest transatlantic optic cable. The next largest is almost half the total potential capacity of the current sub-sea cables across the Atlantic, which is pegged at 337 terabits. Marea is the latest in a maze of undersea cables that are crisscrossing the ocean floor and are owned by Google, Amazon and a host of private players.

Microsoft and Facebook are looking to use the new cable to boost their individual cloud services. By securing super fast data connections between major hubs, the two companies will be able to provide overseas clients with a better user experience.


How Marea Affects Microsoft

With the need for bandwidth growing so rapidly, many tech companies are preferring to build their own cloud infrastructure instead or renting it from traditional telcos. Research firm Gartner estimates that the public cloud computing market will expand 16.5 percent in 2016 to hit $204 billion. Microsoft is the second largest public cloud vendor after Amazon, whose Amazon Web Service is projected to post revenue of approximately $10 billion in 2016. Microsoft’s cloud encompasses a suite of services, including Azure, Office 365, Xbox Live and Bing Search. Microsoft’s cloud run rate has already hit $10 billion with Azure growing in triple-digits.

Microsoft is trying to transition from a company that sells on-premises software licenses to a company that sells cloud subscriptions. Despite the impressive number, cloud revenues represent just 11 percent of Microsoft’s revenue base, meaning the company requires massive cloud infrastructure to become a fully-fledged cloud player. Moreover, Microsoft is introducing new cloud services such as Azure Stack to its cloud portfolio. Azure Stack will bring a more personalized cloud experience into a company’s data center without them having to pay for high overhead.

To make these services a reality, Microsoft needs more cloud bandwidth. Additionally, the company says the new cable provides better interoperability with other networking equipment and its open design lowers customer costs and facilitates easier equipment upgrades.


How Marea Benefits Facebook

In the case of Facebook, the company is looking to improve user experience for its more than 1.6 billion monthly active users, and especially for its overseas users where limited internet bandwidth is a common problem. Nearly two-thirds of Facebook users are located in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa and bring in nearly a quarter of the company’s revenue. By using geo-location to bring resources closer to the end user, the new cable will help Facebook reduce latency problems and make it possible for its users to better enjoy high-bandwidth services such as Facebook video. 

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