Google to Expand Undersea Cables to Boost Its Cloud Computing Business

A Google data center in Iowa. PHOTO: CONNIE ZHOU/GOOGLE/ZUMA PRESS

Google is expanding its sprawling network of undersea cables to plug into new regions around the world, in a bid to speed up its cloud-computing business and catch up to rivals Microsoft Corp. and Inc.

The search-engine operator has plans to build three new underwater fiber-optic cables lining ocean areas from the Pacific to the North Sea, extending its private data network to regions competitors haven’t touched with similar projects.

The cables, expected to be finished in 2019, are designed to speed the transfer of data and reroute users to servers around the globe if a region fails or gets overloaded.

Google said the investments could cost hundreds of millions of dollars but are worth the expense to get a better shot at the multibillion-dollar cloud-computing market.

“I would prefer not to have to be in the cable-building consortium business,” said Ben Treynor, vice president of Google’s cloud platform, but when the company looked at ways to push its cloud business past new frontiers like Australia and South America, “there weren’t a lot of great options.”

Google parent Alphabet Inc. owns a massive network of fiber-optic cables and data centers built up over the past decade. Mr. Treynor said the infrastructure already adds up to the world’s biggest private network, handling roughly 25% of the world’s internet traffic, and helps Google control its data-intensive software without relying on telecom companies.

The projects would bring the number of subsea cables Google has helped build to 11 after a decade of nonstop construction. Its engineers rely on all those conduits to refresh search results, move video files and serve cloud-computing customers who do business in different parts of the globe.

That last business line could use a boost. Google is third in cloud-computing revenue behind Amazon and Microsoft in the race to win big customers, which run everything from shopping websites to government databases on the tech giants’ computer servers. Billions of dollars of annual revenue are at stake as corporations move their information-technology operations to more flexible systems on the cloud.

Google has teamed up with other firms, including domestic telephone operators and Facebook Inc., to build its subsea cables. But it is breaking precedent with its longest, fully private long-distance cable, which will stretch 6,200 miles from Los Angeles to Chile, where the company finished a data center in 2015.

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SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, Drew FitzGerald