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Microsoft Expands Cloud Infrastructure with Undersea MAREA Project

Microsoft has been expanding its cloud services infrastructure of late, including a new trans-Atlantic subsea cable that's being built in partnership with Facebook.

The cable project, called "MAREA," features an "open design" to establish fiber-optic connections between Virginia Beach, Va. and Bilbao, Spain. It'll be further extended to reach Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East regions. The network is being built to support "high-speed, reliable connections for cloud and online services for Microsoft, Facebook and their customers," according to Microsoft's announcement on Thursday.

The MAREA project will start in August, with completion expected in Oct. 2017. MAREA will be operated by Telxius, an infrastructure arm of Telefónica, a Spanish telecom and broadband services provider. The 6,600-kilometer cable will have "eight fiber pairs" to support an estimated 160 terabytes-per-second capacity.

MAREA is part of Microsoft's ongoing cloud expansion efforts. Last year, the company announced investment deals with Hibernia and Aqua Comms for a subsea cable connection between North America and Ireland. Microsoft also teamed with Asian telcos on a fiber optic connection between Asia and North America. That effort was a partnership with China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Chunghwa Telecom, and KT Corporation.

Expansion is also happening on land. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that it had finished constructing a Microsoft Azure datacenter in Canada. It's also proceeding with plans for an Azure datacenter expansion in Seoul, South Korea, although the timeline for the expansion in Seoul wasn't described.

Microsoft's datacenters in Canada are centered in Toronto and Quebec City. They currently provide Azure and Office 365 services to customers, including data replication and private Internet connections via Microsoft's Azure ExpressRoute service. Microsoft is planning to kick off Dynamics CRM Online services from its new Canadian datacenters in Q3 2016.

With these expansions, Microsoft is now boasting of having more datacenter infrastructure than other cloud services providers.

"With the introduction of new regions in Korea, Microsoft has now announced 32 Azure regions around the world with 24 generally available today -- more than any other major cloud provider," said Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of Cloud and Enterprise at Microsoft, in the announcement. He added that Microsoft so far has invested "more than $15 billion" in building out its cloud services infrastructure.

Microsoft also claims it is transparent on security and privacy issues with its "Trusted Cloud" principles and certifications for its cloud-based services. European countries particularly are subject to data residency compliance requirements, for instance, ensuring security for data within country borders. Earlier this month, Microsoft Azure became "the first global cloud service provider" to pass Spain's national security framework certification, according to this Microsoft announcement.

Of course, it may not matter too much in the overall scheme of things. Documents leaked by whistle-blower and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden a few years ago suggested that undersea cables typically get tapped by various government spy agencies.

On the service provider side of things, Comcast Business, part of the U.S. Comcast Cable service provider, announced earlier this month that it was providing Office 365 services to small-to-medium businesses in the United States. Its reseller offerings include Microsoft Office applications, migration support and 1TB of cloud-based storage per user.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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