Subsea cable momentum enables Equinix to catch the next wave

Alex Vaxmonsky
Subsea cable momentum enables Equinix to catch the next wave

The equation behind the ongoing and multi-year surge in submarine cable construction is pretty simple:

  • More data is being produced and processed than ever before.
  • Almost every byte of data that moves over the internet touches a subsea cable.
  • Therefore, as the universe and demand for data grows, so does the need for subsea cables.

The telecommunications research company TeleGeography says global submarine cable construction costs are expected to exceed $2 billion in 2018 for a third straight year. Meanwhile, $10 trillion in transactional value is routing through a subsea cable every day, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The momentum behind the expansion of subsea cable systems shows no sign of abating, and Equinix has a big part to play here. We’re also creating some subsea momentum of our own.

We’re partnering on new projects and acquiring data centers that give our customers improved access to the expanding global subsea cable network. But our most exciting contribution is the implementation of a disruptive design that upends the decades-long practice of terminating subsea cables inside Cable Landing Stations (CLSs) that are on the beach and distant from high-population metros and business users.

With this next-generation design, the cables terminate inside an Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data center. That means any user of a subsea cable system that lands inside one of our Equinix global data center termination points has instant, low-latency access to a host of vibrant industry ecosystems inside Equinix, and that’s a huge advantage.

Subsea cables are a major focus of the ongoing PTC ’18 conference. Equinix is here in Hawaii – led by Equinix’s Americas President Karl Strohmeyer- to participate in numerous panels as speakers or moderators, and to generally take on a thought leadership role in an industry that’s expanding in size and influence. Equinix is all-in on subsea cables, and our focus on delivering interconnection makes them essential to our future.

Cloud-Driven Demand

The level of data traffic worldwide is expected to hit 2.3 zettabytes by 2020. To get your mind around that, consider this analogy from Cisco: If each gigabyte in a zettabyte were a brick, you could build 258 Great Walls of China, which has more than 3.8 billion bricks.

This is a cloud-fueled data explosion, and it’s propelled by a host of cloud-dependent trends like big data and the Internet of Things (IoT). Meanwhile, cloud-dependent content giants like Google are leading the way on subsea cable expansion. They need the capacity in order to meet runaway customer demand for content. In fact, a Google-led project, the Monet Submarine Cable System, is among the several subsea projects that Equinix has publicly announced our involvement with. This system connects Brazil and the U.S. and lands in one of our Miami data centers. We’re also one of Amazon Web Services’s partners on its first-ever investment in a high-speed subsea cable, the Hawaiki Submarine Cable between Australia and the U.S., which is expected to go live this spring. Meanwhile, our purchase last year of the data center company Itconic on the Iberian peninsula also advanced customer access to submarine cable systems. The Lisbon facility we acquired in the deal is connected to the African Coast to Europe submarine cable system and the West Africa Cable System.

So Equinix is building our subsea momentum through partnerships, acquisition – and data center design.

Innovative PoP-to-PoP Design

For years, submarine cable customers and providers have sought to colocate equipment directly inside a traditional, beach-based cable landing station, for obvious reasons. A direct connection to the cable is faster, more secure and less expensive, since it doesn’t need to traverse the single or multiple hops needed over a terrestrial network to link to IT in a data center. In addition, beach stations just weren’t built for colocation of multiple subsea cable users.

Now, advances in laser technology have enabled subsea cable systems to terminate directly inside multi-tenant data centers, like those we run. This provides significant cost savings and a dramatic increase in performance while enabling a new business model. That’s because the hops and associated delays are eliminated with direct connections between one Point of Presence (PoP) and another. The design also gives submarine cable users direct and secure connections to the variety of industry ecosystems inside Equinix, including 2,750+ cloud providers, 1,600+ network providers, and 800+ content and digital media providers. The leading companies in their industries populate these ecosystems, and the opportunities for interconnection are rich.

In addition, a Pop-to-PoP design enables collaborations like the one announced last fall between Seaborn and Aqua Comms, two Equinix partners. Seaborn’s U.S-to-Brazil subsea cable now directly links to Aqua Comm’s U.S.-to-London subsea network (AEConnect) via a cross connect inside Equinix’s NY5 data center. That gives their customers a lightning-fast link between London and Brazil.

Today, the Monet system is among the projects employing this CLS data center design, in one of our Miami data centers. So is the Hawaiki system, which terminates in one of our Sydney data centers.

We obviously see huge potential for the CLS design as subsea cable momentum accelerates. It’s all about meeting the growing need for interconnection – private data exchange between businesses. In the digital age, companies need to reach everywhere, interconnect everyone and integrate everything, and they need to do it out at the digital edge, where commerce, population centers and digital ecosystems meet. The CLS design lands submarine cabling systems at the digital edge, with no hops to get in the way. As subsea cable networks expand globally, we’re giving our customers direct access to the best markets via the best routes, all over the world. In fact, 30 Equinix metros are close enough to the water to support the CLS model, and that includes our Washington D.C. metro. On Platform Equinix, if you build here, you can go anywhere.

Read our Platform Equinix Vision paper to find out more about how our interconnection platform enables digital business over land and under sea.

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Alex Vaxmonsky Former Director, Business Development for Global Service Providers
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