August 28, 2005

Google Wants Dark Fiber

Posted from

Is Google planning to build a global fiber-optic network from scratch? And, if so, why?
The question has cropped up in light of a recent job posting on the search engine giant's Web site seeking experts in the field.
"Google is looking for Strategic Negotiator candidates with experience in...(i)dentification, selection, and negotiation of dark fiber contracts both in metropolitan areas and over long distances as part of development of a global backbone network," the posting reads in part.
"Dark fiber" refers to fiber-optic cable that's already been laid, but is not yet in use. Thousands of miles of dark fiber are available in the United States, but there have been few takers because of the high costs of making it operational.
A Google representative declined to elaborate on the job posting. Still, the posting offers a glimpse into Google's bandwidth needs over the coming years, indicating some prodigious internal projections. Although it's still rare for companies to buy significant amounts of fiber on their own, it's not unheard of among companies with exceptional data demands, such as banks. So buying and developing fiber now could well be nothing more than a strategy for cutting costs down the road.
But the move also raises some tantalizing thoughts, including the long-shot chance that the company is laying the groundwork to jump into the telecommunications business. The posting was reported by Light Reading, a Web site that tracks the optical networking industry.
If Google were to build its own global or national fiber network, the project would likely cost billions of dollars and take years to implement, an investment that would be hard to justify based on the networking needs of most companies. Renting "lit" fiber from carriers is generally a cheaper, and therefore preferred, way to go.
Google is thought to be a shrewd judge of computing value, having built its widely admired infrastructure on the back of low-budget server clusters. At the same time, curious geeks have long pondered the apparent mismatch between its service demands and the reputed scale of its computing resources.
Dark motivationsA handful of dark-fiber projects have been gaining momentum recently, mostly involving large consortia of private companies, universities and medical facilities, sometimes with heavy government backing. Best-known is the National LambdaRail (NLR) , which has acquired more than a third of the 28,000 route miles of dark fiber so far snapped up by the research community, according to Steve Corbato, Internet2's director of network initiatives and an NLR board member.
"We view this, in a sense, as exploiting a moment in time," Corbato said. The telecom boom of the late 1990s led to a glut in fiber assets, and the subsequent bust put undeveloped fiber on the market at bargain basement prices. "The sense of urgency in acquiring these assets has been tied to the unique opportunity that's been presented...The spot market for fiber is already going up, and most people expect these assets will get gobbled up."
Corbato says he has noticed signs of increasing interest in dark fiber from private enterprise of late, most notably among large financial institutions. Meanwhile, in December, cable giant Comcast signed a $100 million-plus deal to buy long-haul dark fiber to build out its network.
A Level3 representative declined to comment when told of Google's job posting.
Corbato also declined to speculate about Google's plans. But he said fiber-optic expertise is a natural fit for a company like Google.
"If I were the CIO of an international information technology company," he said, "I would think that having these types of skills would be a natural to have within the organization."

August 18, 2005

NOVA - Military Technology being used in Iraq

Recently I saw NOVA - Battle Plan Under Fire on PBS. I like NOVA, I think they provide enough information to interest you, and explain things in a way everyone can understand. The show sparked me to make a post with some highlights and present a little information that I found after looking around on the net a little.

The US military has bombs guided by GPS, UAVs remote controlled via satellite, oh yah and and a secret military internet that keeps everyone in communication. The war in Iraq is a laboratory for a new type of battlefield, where decisions can be made on the fly, and targets can be changed at the last minute. A highly advanced mapping system connected to the military internet keeps track of the locations of friendly units via GPS, and enemy units spotted by ground forces.

The RQ-1 Predator (pictured at left) is a remote controlled drone that has cameras and sensors which send information and live video back across the military internet to the ones making the decision where bombs are dropped, and what shall be done next. Hellfire missiles can even be launched from the Predator. It's been in use since 1995 in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Yemen according to the RQ-1 Predator Wikipedia article.

It can be the eyes and means to target things for a much larger C-130 Hercules(pictured below) residing even higher in the air that can then drop lots of bombs with deadly accuracy.

This is the time of network-centric warfare which facilitates a chat-room style of fighting, communication changes everything. But the enemy does a good job of staying below our radar and they seem to somehow adapt. No matter how much technology we have, they just keep coming. Its pretty amazing really. I really suggest people check out the NOVA program if possible.

NOVA - Battle Plan Under Fire

Predator RQ-1 on PBS website

August 05, 2005

Fuel Cell Technology, and the ONE-Wheel Concept

Imagine that your next motorcycle is a unicycle, powered by a hydrogen fuel cell! The EMBRIO is a concept transport vehichle from Canadian based Bombardier Recreational Products. It has...well i guess you could call it "landing gear" that deploy when speeds drop below 20kmph (12.4mph), althhough the unit's gyroscopes will balance the vehicle even while motionless. Steering is executed by shifting one's wait (leaning) rather than turning handlebars or a steering wheel. I know I want to be the first guy on my block to have one of these. Unfortunately fuel cells have a few hurdles that need to be overcome before everyone and they're brother will be driving cars powered by the technology. Which brings us to the next section...

Theres alot of buzz about fuel cell cars, but cars will not be the place we'll see fuel cells first. Where will we see them? The answer may be in your pocket, or on your lap:

Micro Fuel Cells
Mobile Phones, PDAs, and Laptops should start to utilize micro fuel cells to power them by the end of the year. That means your next phone, or notebook computer may be using this new technology. At first they'll give us power just as well as batteries, but within a few years our fuel cells will be getting much longer use out of our portable electronics than batteries ever could have. Companies already have prototypes and very soon we'll see working devices on the market.

This new technology will also fight pollution and waste problems on a grand scale. The fuel cell car's only byproduct is water vapor (compared to harmful carbon monixide and much more) and in the micro fuel cell world, batteries are bad for our environment to dispose of improperly (which I'm sure most are). Hopefully the obstacles preventing us from launching large scale fuel cells in the transportation industry will be overcome, saving the earth, our collective conscience, and some money if we're lucky.

Embrio One-Wheel Concept At

The Fuel Cell Way A great website with lots of info (multiple languages)