Underwater Cloud Break

Underwater Cloud Break

Summary: In my previous post I discussed how historically railways were the supply chain backbone of the US economy (as was the case with many other nations) 120 years ago.Globally the internet is remarkably similar today: although we tend to think of it as a "network of networks" consisting of millions of private, public, business, government and academic networks, once you go global the fundamental plumbing pipes are surprisingly fat and few.

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In my previous post I discussed how historically railways were the supply chain backbone of the US economy (as was the case with many other nations) 120 years ago.

Globally the internet is remarkably similar today: although we tend to think of it as a "network of networks" consisting of millions of private, public, business, government and academic networks, once you go global the fundamental plumbing pipes are surprisingly fat and few.

The UK Guardian newspaper has a great diagram of 'the internet's undersea world' online.

2.7 inch thick submarine communications cables carry traffic inter continentally, traveling all stops from Norden Germany to Okinawa, Japan in the case of ''SEA-ME-WE 3' (South-East Asia - Middle East - Western Europe 3), one of the major internet routes around the planet.

This technology is a continuation of the telephony era - the first transatlantic telephone line, featuring a whopping 36 lines, was only inaugurated in late 1956. During the First World War both British and German forces systematically attempted to destroy the others' worldwide communication systems by cutting cables with submarines and surface ships.

Since the '50's there's been a huge increase in the amount of telephony cabling and now fiber optics, which also carries net traffic.

We have recently had some major outages, some of which are mysterious and some remarkably low tech: in 2007 for example 11 kilometers of the TVH section of the SEA-ME-WE 3 cable went missing from the floor of Ca Mau Sea: it turned out it had been stolen for scrap! This greatly reducing internet speed in Vietnam for months and also affected Hong Kong and Thailand's internet access until it was replaced.

According to Global Marine Systems, one of the major cable maintenance companies, "Undersea cable damage is hardly rare...more than 50 repair operations were mounted in the Atlantic alone last year". (A cut in a single cable crossing the Atlantic has "no significant effect" due to the many alternate routes, whereas, for example, the Middle East as a destination only has a handful of Internet cables connecting it to the rest of the world, so the effects of any damage are more immediately felt).

All very murky just like the undersea world - what's interesting is the impact this latter day internet railroad style backbone has on the brave new world of cloud computing.

Impact on the Cloud

In the west we have many ways the internet can still reach us if one or more routes to our location are down. In the case of the major outage of December still under repair on the FLAG Telecom, SEA-ME-WE 4, and SEA-ME-WE 3 cables, India and Egypt are still struggling with massively reduced connectivity and lousy latency.

Global businesses take international collaboration and communication for granted these days, but as global connectivity expands there are many issues at the outer extremities of the network.

The Asia internet traffic report for example is a significant guide in that part of the world - much like keeping your eye on the driving commute status in LA, it can define productivity.

The reality is that putting data in the cloud isn't just a vendor viability issue - there is also this fundamental plumbing reliability concern to think about when connecting federated or distributed partners and business units.

With many people now very dependent on the internet for their livelihood it is growing increasingly important that the fundamental infrastructure of the net - which is strategically important on a lot of levels - is more closely monitored and guarded. Depriving entire nations of internet access can be as crude as snipping cables, as was the case with telephone cabling in World War 1.

Add to this potential physical problem denial of service attacks and viruses, and on premise computing (having your information in house on your own servers behind a firewall) looks much more attractive, secure and manageable.

The economic appeal of cloud computing costing is extremely attractive in these very tight times; identifying how to most effectively use it is mission critical to ensure up time and acceptable performance. Where your data lives is an increasingly important issue, not least because of latency issues, but also thinking about what basic internet availability is critical between business units.

The business strategic planning challenge is therefore essentially defining what information is fundamental to keeping your business running in real time, and what can be cloud based. These decisions are foundational to the success of your collaboration environments.

Topics: Hardware, Browser, Mobility, Networking, Telcos

About

Oliver Marks & Associates provides seasoned, technology agnostic independent consulting guidance to companies on effective Digital Enterprise Transformation business strategy, tactics, infrastructure & technology decisions, roll out and enduring use models and management.

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9 comments
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  • Cloud computing = snake oil

    How ironic that an article which factually illustrates why cloud computing is idiotic to even the most non-technical layperson would conclude with:

    "..The business strategic planning challenge is therefore essentially defining what information is fundamental to keeping your business running in real time, and what can be cloud based. These decisions are foundational to the success of your collaboration environments."

    If you admit, in the first half of that statement, that some information is unsuitable for cloud computing, why should any business bother spending valuable funds trying to split their data into cloud / non-cloud bits?

    You say it as though it is a "must-do" of any technically savvy company. I think the IT field in particular is so littered with failed concepts that most CIOs and IT managers see cloud computing for what it is: a snake-oil salespitch designed to sell equipment and services and generate revenue for the suppliers of those services.

    And that doesn't even address the security aspect. The average layperson wouldn't leave a lockbox full of valuables with a stranger living down the street, yet the cloud computing industry really thinks a company should leave it's data in a foreign server in a foreign country?

    I wonder if access to that data uses SSL...
    croberts
    • Well ZDNet wouldn't want to bite the hand that feeds. (nt)

      nt
      V@...
    • Move the cloud inside of the corporate network.

      Google makes search engine appliances that mount to a rack and can
      cover the needs of a corporation well over 2500 employees strong. I'm
      sure they could make an appliance with Google Apps installed for
      corporate deployments, or for those corporations that have the spare
      space and compute cycles on a Linux or UNIX server, an installable
      version, with necessary server-side frameworks, that could easily scale
      to the levels needed by any corporation.
      nix_hed
  • Satellites are the answer

    Just as geosynchronous communication satellites have made phone service available everywhere, humanity must eventually move the Internet into space as well. The big problem will be uploading bandwidth. It is much harder to upload large amounts of data to a satellite than it is download it. This is because upload antennas must be precisely aimed, and boosted with high power, whereas download antennas need only be generally aimed passive receivers, with low-power amplification. Think (several) huge dishes at the upload station (for TV), versus 18-inch dish on your window sill.

    Disclaimer: I am not an expert on satellite communications, just an observer. I welcome any corrections.
    barence773
    • My Reply

      I fully agree with everything you are saying, eventually everything but powersourcing will be done wirelessly (God knows when powersourcing will too though haha) Free WI-FI, satellite broadband are the future of the words communications, i cant wait till cable boxes go WI FI, though it probably already has been done and I have no idea; as you said earlier I am no satellite communications genious, but I am your regular Joe Schmoe with an opinion and suggestion
      TRCIV
    • My thoughts exactly. :)

      Much more expertise and resources required to take out a satellite.
      V@...
      • Of course,

        there's always space debris that can take out a satellite. it's already
        happened with a communication satellite this year, and just putting more
        satellites up there will exponentially increase this happening.

        Who needs terrorists and bored people with rockets, when all you need is
        us, Russia, and China (and anyone else putting stuff in space for that
        matter)?
        nix_hed
    • No, the big difference ...

      ... is lag.

      To quote Wikipedia:

      "Geostationary satellites also carry international telephone traffic but they are being replaced by fiber optic cables in heavily populated areas and along the coasts of less developed regions, because of the greater bandwidth available and lower latency, due to the inherent disconcerting delay in communicating via a satellite in such a high orbit. It takes electromagnetic waves about a quarter of a second to travel from one end to the other of the link. Thus, two parties talking via satellite will be subject to about a half second delay in a round-trip message/response sequence."

      Care to play on-line games with that?
      fairportfan
      • Wouldn't be much slower than Comcast...LOL

        Anyway, I remember when DirecTV first put out it's satellite internet
        service, and to make it more "gamer-friendly", it used a return by
        telephone instead of a return by satellite (which, as I understand, is
        what Hughes is doing now).

        Either way, it's not the latency that kills you with satellite
        communication, but you also have to deal with weather, sun outages,
        and the potential issue of a collision with space debris. I'd much
        rather deal with some guy scrapping 11 km of undersea cable than
        guaranteed outages once every 3 to 8 months, depending on
        geographic location.

        (Note that by sun outages, I don't necessarily mean that service will be
        totally interrupted, but rather that service will probably slow to a crawl
        for periods of time at least two days per year, and sometimes up to
        two periods of a week per year.)
        nix_hed