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Google Cloud gets into orbit with SpaceX for data, cloud services

Elon Musk’s low Earth orbit satellite constellation to locate ground stations in IT giant’s data centre properties, providing businesses with access to leading cloud infrastructure

In a partnership that encompasses companies with two of the technology industry’s most famous figureheads, Google Cloud and SpaceX have forged a new partnership to deliver data, cloud services and applications to customers at the network edge, leveraging using the Google Cloud infrastructure and the ability of the space technology firm’s Starlink low-Earth-orbit satellite constellation to provide high-speed broadband internet around the world.

The two companies believe they have a business opportunity addressing the connectivity needs of organisations with broad footprints, such as public sector agencies, businesses with presences at the network edge, or those operating in rural or remote areas, which often require access to applications running in the cloud, or to cloud services such as analytics, artificial intelligence or machine learning. The firms add that connectivity from Starlink’s constellation can provide a path for these organisations to deliver data and applications to teams distributed across countries and continents, quickly and securely.

The partnership will see SpaceX begin to locate Starlink ground stations in Google datacentre properties, enabling the delivery of data from more than 1,500 Starlink satellites launched to orbit locations at the network edge via Google Cloud. Google Cloud’s private network will close the loop, supporting the delivery of Starlink’s global satellite internet service, bringing businesses and consumers connectivity to the cloud and internet, and enabling the delivery of critical enterprise applications.

“Applications and services running in the cloud can be transformative for organisations, whether they’re operating in a highly networked or remote environment,” said Urs Hölzle, senior vice-president of infrastructure at Google Cloud.

“We are delighted to partner with SpaceX to ensure that organisations with distributed footprints have seamless, secure, and fast access to the critical applications and services they need to keep their teams up and running.”

“Combining Starlink’s high-speed, low-latency broadband with Google’s infrastructure and capabilities provides global organisations with the secure and fast connection that modern organisations expect,” added SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell. “We are proud to work with Google to deliver this access to businesses, public sector organisations, and many other groups operating around the world.”

This new capability, delivered by Google Cloud and Starlink to enterprise customers, is expected to be available in the second half of 2021.

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The partnership is the second of its kind that the satellite firm has closed in recent times. In October 2020, SpaceX was named a launch partner of Microsoft’s Azure Space initiative, designed to offer a range of products and partners in the hope of positioning its public cloud to compete in the space and satellite segment of the IaaS market.

In this partnership, Elon Musk’s firm is to supply satellite-based internet connections to Azure, and the two companies have committed to work jointly on providing connections to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband and Microsoft’s Azure Modular Datacentre (MDC).

The unit contains its own heating, ventilation and air conditioning, server racks, and full networking and security capabilities. The offering will target companies looking to set up an edge location in remote areas.

The MDC, which can operate either connected or disconnected, works with Microsoft’s Azure Stack Hub.

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