Google Cloud, SpaceX team to extend connectivity, compute

SpaceX building
The arrangement was touted as one which will offer improved latency and security. (Pixabay)

Google Cloud inked a deal to pair its compute infrastructure with SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband service, a move one Google exec told Fierce will help extend the reach of the edge cloud.

As part of the arrangement, SpaceX will install Starlink ground stations at Google’s data center properties, enabling its broadband customers to directly tap into the compute power offered by tech giant’s global network of more than 150 edge cloud locations. Starlink customers are expected to be able to leverage this new capability in the second half of 2021.

Bikash Koley, VP and head of global networking at Google, told Fierce the arrangement will see Starlink traffic travel from an end-user terminal up to one of the service’s satellites and back down to a ground station located at one of Google’s data centers. He noted this setup will offer Starlink customers reduced latency by providing the shortest path possible to the backend of the network.

When customers are using a Google service, such as Google Maps, Koley said the application will be able to be served directly from the data center. Non-Google applications will be served using the data center’s high-speed connection to the internet.

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Koley said the arrangement also offers enhanced security characteristics since the only links in the connectivity chain are Starlink and Google.

Because Starlink is designed to reach remote areas where other connectivity options aren’t feasible, the deal also “becomes a very easy way” to extend the reach of Google’s edge cloud capabilities, he added.

CBS News reported SpaceX has launched more than 1,600 hundred Starlink satellites since testing began in 2018, with its most recent batch of 60 birds deployed on May 9. The company recently revealed more than half a million people have already signed up for the service, which is still in beta.

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Earlier this month, Ookla released a report which showed Starlink’s median latency performance ranged from 31 milliseconds (ms) to 88 ms, which was higher than the median range for other providers.

Koley said more deals like its arrangement with SpaceX could be on the way. “We see a future where communications service providers are going to increasingly use the capabilities of global cloud providers like ourselves. And we see this future happening slowly but surely,” he concluded.

On the flip side, Google isn’t SpaceX’s only cloud partner. In October 2020, SpaceX teamed with Microsoft to supply satellite connectivity for the latter’s Azure Modular Datacenter product, which was designed to provide cloud computing capabilities in challenging environments.