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January 21, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 9:51am

How Google’s 70 global PoP could ignite an edge data centre boom

Analysis: As the cloud war intensifies, central data centres could be assisted by local hubs to improve and speed up content delivery.

By Joao Lima

In a push to catch up with rivals Amazon and Microsoft, Google unveiled in December 2015 its own cloud content delivery network (CDN), the Google Cloud CDN under project Alpha.

The Cloud CDN uses globally distributed edge caches – including four data centre regions and over 70 edge points-of-presence (PoP) in 33 countries – to cache HTTP(S) Load Balanced content close to users.

The CDN was designed to allow developers to load their applications faster, reducing latency and speeding up content delivery.

Google’s launch of its own CDN has come a month after the company partnered with global CDN provider Akamai to speed up its cloud services.

However, with the launch of Cloud CDN Alpha, speculation around Google converting the mentioned 70 PoPs into edge data centres, using the edge caches, also emerged, despite no official announcements by Google.

Last month, two sources close to the company told Fortune Magazine that the company is considering deploying servers into all of the PoPs creating a global network of localised data centres, which would see the company own one of the largest agglomerates of such smaller infrastructures.

This could potentially help Google catch up with players like Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS, which own 20 and 11 regions respectively, with more set to come online this year.

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Google currently owns and operates four major data centre regions worldwide (Eastern US, Central US, Western Europe and East Asia).

By using PoP, described by Google as "peering and content delivery network", the company would expand its service footprint to more regions, including Africa, Australia and South America.

Edge data centres are still in their early days as businesses start to experience the growing impact of IoT and online services fed by the cloud.

Speaking to CBR on Google’s potential move, Steven Carlini, Sr director data centre solutions marketing at Schneider Electric explained that internet use is trending towards bandwidth-intensive content and an increasing number of attached ‘things’.

He said: "At the same time, mobile telecom networks and data networks are converging into a cloud computing architecture. To support user demand, computing power and storage is being inserted out on the network edge in order to lower data transport time and increase availability.

"Edge computing places data acquisition, control functions, storage of high bandwidth content and applications closer to the end-user."

Financially, Google has the money and the knowhow to invest in such project and convert the PoPs into smaller data centres quickly expanding its global reach. With the PoPs and CDN already in place, the time needed to transform the PoPs into data centres would also be minimal.

According to Carlini, it is not that Google is trying to dominate edge or localised data centre opportunities. It all comes down to horsepower to keep its own services running and making sure they never fail.

He said: "They are trying to provide customers with faster and more reliable access to their cloud based services. We are seeing the same type of activity from Microsoft for Azure, not forgetting that Netflix closed all of their data centres after selecting Amazon to house its CDN.

"We are also seeing more companies beginning to adopt a localised data centre approach in order to provide services to their customers."

Yet, if Google makes the move to convert the entire PoP network into micro data centres, it could speed up the adoption of edge computing by business across all verticals.

According to a Schneider Electric whitepaper, edge computing can solve latency challenges and enable companies to take better advantage of opportunities leveraging a cloud computing architecture.

Edge data centres bring bandwidth intensive content closer to the end user and latency-sensitive applications closer to the data.

Computing power and storage capabilities are inserted directly on the edge of the network to lower transport time and improve availability.

Commenting on the eventual conversion of Google’s PoPs into localised data centres, Simon Brady, head of data centre optimisation at Emerson Network Power in EMEA, told CBR that the growth in digital content consumption and data collection is challenging the centralised data centre model.

Brady said: "As these micro data centres, operating as satellites to a central facility, proliferate on corporate campuses and in high-density residential areas, their success will depend on the use of standardised, intelligent systems that can be remotely managed."


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