SpaceX Expands Starlink Connection to Google Cloud

Article By : George Leopold

SpaceX will install Starlink ground stations in Google data centers for faster connections.

Starlink, the streak in the night sky launched by SpaceX, will connect with Google’s cloud infrastructure, enabling the satellite broadband network to deliver low-latency applications, data and other cloud services to network edge deployments.

SpaceX earlier signed a similar agreement to connect its Starlink constellation to Microsoft’s Azure cloud.

SpaceX has so far launched more than 1,600 Starlink satellites into low-earth orbit, including another 52 on May 16. Once deployed, they appear as a train of lights in the night sky. SpaceX pitches the satellite internet service as delivering “point-to-point communications from anywhere on Earth.” The cloud deals with Google and Microsoft illustrate the long-term goal of tapping the lucrative enterprise edge market.

Starlink constellation. (Source: earth sky.org)

Google said last week SpaceX will locate Starlink ground stations within its data centers to deliver applications to the network edge relayed by its growing satellite constellation. The collaboration combines Google’s private cloud network with a satellite network service eventually aimed at corporate users, including those beyond the reach of terrestrial connections.

The deal with SpaceX is a significant win for Google’s cloud service, a perennial runner-up to cloud leaders Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Cloud services tracker Synergy Research Group recently ranked Google among its “high-growth” cloud providers “gaining market share.”

Among the goals of the cloud satellite partnership is penetrating the market for high-volume “enterprise” customers, a segment where Google has attempted to differentiate itself from dominant players AWS and Microsoft Azure. Given the rocket rivalry between SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who turned over the reins at Amazon.com to focus on his Blue Origin space venture, Musk’s decision to go with Google’s cloud makes sense.

Google and SpaceX said they expect to begin delivering the new edge services to corporate customers beginning in the second half of 2021.

SpaceX and Microsoft announced a partnership last fall that would link the Starlink broadband network to Azure modular data centers via satellite network provider SES.

Observers note the Google-SpaceX deal would create direct connections between the Starlink constellation via ground stations in Google data centers. Those direct connections would reduce latency and boost performance for streaming video and other enterprise applications.

“Kind of a big deal,” wrote Kevin White, an attorney and member of a SpaceX group on Facebook. “Google p—ed off many of the incumbent back-haulers (particularly AT&T) when they purchased a ton of dark fiber (out from under the incumbent back-haulers, who let it lie fallow….).” White also noted Google’s substantial number of “peering contracts” that allow network providers to exchange traffic for mutual benefit.

“This is good news for Starlink, to be considered high-performing enough to be part of that contractual network,” White noted. “I do wonder about the details of the [Google-Starlink] deal, though.”

Others stressed the deal would provide Starlink customers with faster connections to Google cloud servers.

This article was originally published on EE Times.

George Leopold has written about science and technology from Washington, D.C., since 1986. Besides EE Times, Leopold’s work has appeared in The New York Times, New Scientist, and other publications. He resides in Reston, Va.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Leave a comment