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Google Buying Dark Fibre, a Contrarian Opinion

Many are referring to the ZDNet article entitled “Google Wants Dark Fibre” as a sign that the big G is going to compete with the telcos. I’m going to take the contrarian opinion and say this is probably nothing.

First, to those of you who don’t know, you buy your data fibre services either lit or dark.

With a lit service, you get a specified protocol and speed on either end, usually Ethernet or some flavour of ATM/SONET. It’s lit because there is literally light from the carrier’s lasers on the line to provide the service. The carrier takes care of all the interconnects, and depending on the type of service you may know very little about what goes on in the middle. You can even have the carrier merge several links because they’ve got active gear in the centre, and are speaking the same protocol as you are.

Dark fibre, by contrast, is a piece of unlit glass, starting on one location, terminating at the other, there’s nothing in the middle. You can send morse code over it, or 10 gig ethernet if you want. The neat thing about dark fibre is that through “Wave Division Multiplexing” (WDM), you can run multiple channels on the same fibre. You could have two OC-48’s (2.5Gbit/S) going at the same time as your fibre channel SAN, and even your Morse code. By sending the different signals at different frequencies, and pulling them out at the other end, you can multiplex many channels. I don’t follow the technology, but using Dense WDM (DWDM) you can get in excess of 64 channels on a single pair.

This is great if you’re running many pipes between the same location, since you could potentially save money. And after the dot com bust, there is silly amounts of unlit fibre in the ground.

I posted this to Webmasterworld in response to the topic.

A few of things make me think this might be blown out of proportion.

- The job also talks about them being responsible for negotiations for all the data centre and power stuff, their Internet traffic, and HVAC. So this isn’t a “take over the world with dark fibre” position

- In the part where they ask for experience getting dark fibre, they also ask for the same thing with managed MAN and lambdas. Basically, all the pipes G would use for their network.

- It’s not unreasonable to assume that G makes use of dark fibre, or would look to try and lower the $/Mb/s costs by trying alternative means. If you look at the “Peering Manager” description above, they have a guy that does this solely for their Internet peering.

- It doesn’t specify “bundles” of dark fibre. It could easily be a single pair.

The stuff about global backbone networks, while true, sounds more like it’s there to get the right person excited than it is to announce they’re competing with the telcos ;)


Add on to this that Google deals in managing information, not bits on a wire. I think it makes way more sense that dark fibre is simply one tool in the huge toolbox at Google, and people are jumping to conclusions.

So, IMHO, while the geniuses at Google could conceivably get into the bandwidth market, I don’t think it’s where they want to be.


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