Google announced on Thursday that it has agreed to use Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s growing satellite internet service, Starlink, with its cloud unit. SpaceX will install Starlink terminals at Google’s cloud data centers around the world, with the goal of utilizing the cloud for Starlink customers while also allowing Google to use the satellite network’s fast internet for its enterprise cloud customers.
Customers will be able to use the Starlink-Google Cloud capabilities, which include secure data delivery to remote parts of the world, by the end of 2021, Google said in a press release Thursday morning. A spokesman for SpaceX said the first Starlink terminal would be installed at Google’s data center in New Albany, Ohio, and that more details about the partnership would be shared in the coming months.
The agreement is a natural fit for Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Google, which invested $900 million in the space company in 2015 to cover a variety of technology, including Starlink satellite manufacturing. SpaceX has launched 1,625 Starlink satellites so far, with approximately 1,550 currently in orbit. A Starlink beta program that began last year has attracted at least 10,000 users from the United States, Canada, and a few European countries, with at least 500,000 deposits of $100 made by potential customers.
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Musk’s Starlink network faces stiff competition from Jeff Bezos’ Amazon’s nascent Kuiper Project, which aims to launch more than 3,000 satellites in roughly the same orbit as Starlink to provide global broadband internet. The Google-SpaceX agreement gives Google another competitive advantage in its rivalry with Amazon’s behemoth cloud services unit, Amazon Web Services. Amazon executives have stated that they intend to use Kuiper internet connectivity to boost the performance of their AWS cloud services.
“Whether operating in a highly networked or remote environment, applications and services running in the cloud can be transformative for organizations,” said Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of infrastructure at Google Cloud, in a press release. According to Hölzle, Google is “delighted to partner with SpaceX to ensure that organizations with distributed footprints have seamless, secure, and fast access to the critical applications and services they need to keep their teams running.”
According to SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell, the Google deal entails providing internet data “access to businesses, public sector organizations, and many other groups operating around the world.” “By combining Starlink’s high-speed, low-latency broadband with Google’s infrastructure and capabilities, global organizations will have the secure and fast connection that modern organizations expect,” she said.
Microsoft, which runs another massive cloud service called Azure that competes with Amazon’s cloud, partnered with SpaceX in a similar partnership last year. Using Starlink’s broadband highway to route Azure cloud data, the two companies will “co-sell to our mutual customers, co-sell to new enterprise and future customers” for data services, Shotwell said in a promotional video at the time.