What is MAREA? Oh, just an epic shift that changes everything

Facebook and Microsoft partner to lay oceanic fiber. Virginia to Spain in 35 ms.

Bilbao Microsoft Facebook MAREA undersea cable

“Maman” by Louise Bourgeois, Bilbao [public domain]

Microsoft and Facebook will build MAREA, the fastest trans-Atlantic cable ever. But why is this HUGE news -- is it because of the cable itself, or because of how it'll be used? 

[Developing story. Updated 9:27 am PT with more comment]

Obviously, laying an undersea cable over 4,100 miles is an expensive idea, so they're usually owned by telcos, who parcel out bandwidth to their customers. But in this case, it'll be directly owned by its two customers. And that isn't just a technicality.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers have seen the future. Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.


What’s the craic? Cade Metz reportz—Facebook and Microsoft Are Laying a Giant Cable Across the Atlantic:

This giant underwater cable will stretch from Virginia to Bilbao, Spain [at] 160 terabits per second. ... Rather than just leasing bandwidth...the likes of Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are building their own.

The data moved by just a few online giants now dwarfs that of most others. [So they] are scrambling to build new infrastructure.

Telxius, a subsidiary of Spanish telecom Telefónica...will operate the cable, and Facebook and Microsoft...will command most of its bandwidth. ... Completion is expected in October 2017.


Sounds epic. Eric David agrees—Microsoft and Facebook join forces:

Facebook may be hard at work...with its high-altitude drones [but] nothing beats laying a gigantic cable across the bottom of the ocean. ... “Marea” will be the highest-capacity submarine cable in the Atlantic.


Where's the enterprise angle? Microsoft's Frank Rey guns the PR machine: [You're fired -Ed.]

Today we’re excited to announce the latest step in our global cloud infrastructure. ... We’re seeing an ever-increasing customer demand for high speed, reliable connections. ... MAREA will be...the first to connect the United States to southern Europe.

Existing transatlantic cable systems...primarily land in...New York/New Jersey [so MAREA] helps ensure more resilient and reliable connections.


But why Spain? Simon Sharwood scribbles swimmingly—Strange bedfellows:

Bilbao's already a landing point for at least one cable...TGN-Western Europe, and has good connections into Spain. ... Most trans-Atlantic cables land in the UK, but there's only so much space in landing stations. [And] closely-grouped cables can mean one incident causes several outages.


What about some 1337 conspiracy theories? H3r3'5 H3lldr0p:

How much of this is about data...and how much of this is about security?

It wasn't all that long ago we found out that the U.S. and UK governments had tapped into the current Atlantic cables in order to spy. ... If a government [should] attempt to tap into it, not only would it...be fairly easy to detect but it'd also cause some actionable litigation. Which would be the last thing any spy would want.

Conversely, who knows what hoops they had to hop through in order to get this project off the ground. Would it surprise anyone if there was some governing language which says "you have to let us tap" no matter who owns the cable?


Update: Some, such as Tablizer, think they know the real reason:

Ulterior motive? ... This is so people will have the bandwidth to (unwittingly) download the bloated Windows 10.


And some believe it's related to the Five Eyes group. Such as Avarist:

They chose Spain so they can avoid being spied on by the British. [They] read everything that passes through [the UK] which is all transatlantic communications.


So how do they get 160 Tb/s down 8 fibres? Shatrat gives us a quick primer:

Wavelength division multiplexing. ... There are probably only 2 or 4 working fibers in the cable, due to amplifier space and power limitations. That's 80 or 160 OTU4s [100 GigE streams] per pair, which is pretty easy to do with modern equipment.


You have been reading IT Blogwatch by Richi Jennings, who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don’t have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or itbw@richi.uk.
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