Hurricane Sandy and the damage she unleashed on the US north-east coast in 2012 was a wake-up call for Microsoft. In the aftermath of the storm, international network communications were disrupted for hours as a result of undersea cables that terminated in New Jersey being damaged. Officials at Microsoft suddenly realised it was not wise to have a single location on the East Coast for incoming data. They set out to change that.
Microsoft has since teamed up with Facebook and Telxius, a Spanish technology company and subsidiary of Telefónica, to lay a brand-new subsea cable linking the US and Spain. They have named the cable Marea. On either side are the now sister cities of Virginia Beach, Virginia in the US and Bilboa in Spain. The two locations were chosen because they are well south of connection points in both countries, increasing the likelihood that a natural disaster will not simultaneously knock out both Marea and other connection points farther north.
According to Microsoft president Brad Smith, the new cable “comes at a critical time.” The cable is capable of 160 TB per second which, according to a Microsoft blog, is 16 million times faster than the average residential internet connection. At a time when the amount of data flowing across the world's networks is increasing exponentially, the new cable offers more than just redundancy. It also increases capacity.
“Submarine cables in the Atlantic already carry 55 per cent more data than trans-Pacific routes and 40 per cent more data than between the U.S. and Latin America,” Smith said. “There is no question that the demand for data flows across the Atlantic will continue to increase and Marea will provide a critical connection for the United States, Spain and beyond.”
More Connected Every Day
It is interesting to note that Microsoft and Facebook are normally internet rivals competing for the largest possible market share. The fact that they teamed up along with Telxius is proof of just how vital a new undersea cable was and is. There is no denying that we are becoming a more connected world with each passing day, and we are going to need ever greater capacity and redundancy to keep up as technology evolves.
Marea is a highly advanced data cable that is remarkably different in a number of ways. Most notably, the technology behind the cable involves a highly flexible design that will allow for better future scalability and modification. Right now, it also represents an entirely new and previously unused route for transatlantic data between Europe and North America. Increased capacity is critical in a day and age in which mobility and the Internet of Things are both growing exponentially.
Marea has come at a critical time. It was obvious following Sandy that something had to be done to increase capacity and redundancy. Had Microsoft and its two partners not acted when they did, someone else probably would have picked up the baton. At any rate, global communications will be the main beneficiary.