Google and Its Continuing Dark Fiber Mystery

By David Morgenstern  |  Posted 2006-06-23 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Analysts say Google may be spending more than $1 billion on infrastructure projects, including purchases of a "dark fiber" backbone. The reason for the purchases is a riddle to the industry, but one Internet consultant r

The market is still guessing about Googles continued purchases of "dark fiber" and what that will mean to the Internet. Yet another explanation was floated at a recent IT conference: IPv6, the next-generation Internet standard. During a debate on the adoption of Internet Protocol Version 6 at the Burton Groups annual Catalyst conference in San Francisco, Alex Lightman, CEO of IP telephony vendor, offered a new reason for Googles expenditures on dark fiber. His observation came during a dialogue on Internet addressing and the lack of support by service providers for IPv6. He is worried that the United States is focused on the present and is not addressing future needs.
Will IPv6 gain some respect from U.S. IT managers? Click here to read a report from the debate.
According to Lightman, some service providers are preparing for IPv6. He ran down a list of companies with "slash 20" addresses. "You know who else has a big pot of slash 20? Google," Lightman said. "Yahoo does too. Its not that service providers arent doing it—its the savvy service providers, with the high multiples and visionary management, that are getting ready to go into it. "This is why Google bought mobile dark fiber. Its to go out and go: All these bozos in America arent rolling out IPv6, so well do it if they arent going to," he said. Lightman said that Google hired Vint Cerf in September 2005 as vice president and chief Internet evangelist in order to lead the companys IPv6 strategy. Cerf and other IPv6 proponents point to the increasing demand for IP addresses from mobile devices, such as phones and handhelds, but also automobiles. Support for the growing number of static and mobile devices in the world with IPv4 and NAT routers will become problematic some time over the next five to 10 years, analysts said at the Burton conference, disagreeing on whether demand for addresses will become critical sooner. With IPv6, the Internet will be able to handle trillions of individual addresses. According to telecom industry reports, Google said its capital expenditures will exceed the $800 million in 2005. Analysts suggest that the actual amount may be in the $1.25 billion range. Some suggest that a portion of this investment is going into purchases of dark fiber, or unused fiber-optic telecommunications infrastructure built in the late 1990s. In an exclusive interview, Google VP and GM David Girouard talks about the companys plans for enterprise search, enterprise e-mail and productivity applications. Click here to download the podcast. What Google is doing now with the global infrastructure—or, more to the point, what it plans to do in the future—has sparked plenty of speculation in the telecommunications and computer industry. Aside from the IPv6 applications and services theory proposed by Lightman, other candidates have included the following:
  • Google Video. Google launched its video download store in January to much fanfare. While the jury is still out, Internet video is a growing market and Google wants to be a big part of that story.
  • Google Wi-Fi. Google is moving forward with municipal Wi-Fi networking plans for Mountain View, Calif., near its headquarters as well as San Francisco, being built by Internet provider EarthLink, and possibly one in New Orleans. The dark fiber backbone could give the company leverage for expansion to other cities and states, even allowing the company to take over as a provider.
  • Grid computing. Google will build out distributed data centers near access points to improve performance for search results and its ad serving business, as well as create a grid computing services operation.
  • SAAS (software as a service). Google will expand its services to consumers and businesses, requiring expanded network bandwidth. The dark fiber purchases are a Web 2.0 content and application services play. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on the Internet, servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses
    David Morgenstern is Executive Editor/Special Projects of eWEEK. Previously, he served as the news editor of Ziff Davis Internet and editor for Ziff Davis' Storage Supersite.

    In 'the days,' he was an award-winning editor with the heralded MacWEEK newsweekly as well as eMediaweekly, a trade publication for managers of professional digital content creation.

    David has also worked on the vendor side of the industry, including companies offering professional displays and color-calibration technology, and Internet video.

    He can be reached here.


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