Science fiction is about to be honest to goodness science. The reason? A company called Cloud Constellation will put data centers in space. They call it “SpaceBelt, The Information Ultra-Highway — a cloud vendor above all others.” The idea is relatively simple. Build several satellites, each containing a self-sustaining data center, and have them orbit the earth. With only seven satellites, a multi-national corporation or governmental entity could have its own private communications network and data centers in the cloud. Cloud Constellation CEO Scott Sobhani says that SpaceBelt will offer the same level of security (if not better) than the options available today — with less latency and cost.
Sobhani explains how there is no such thing as a globally-available private network – not even a nationally-available private network. Since digging your own dark fiber from location to location simply isn’t feasible for long distances, the most common method of creating a “private” network is called a “leased line”. Such networks operate on public infrastructure, which is why most people encrypt data that passes through them. The challenges of operating on public infrastructure are security, cost, and latency.
What if you’d like a completely private connection between your company and your data center, and you’d like that private connection to be accessible around the world? Without SpaceBelt, Sobhani says that simply isn’t possible. But if you lease just seven or eight of SpaceBelt’s data centers, you can indeed have your own globally accessible private network — again with lower latency and cost than your alternatives.
If you don’t need the absolute assurance of having your own equipment, SpaceBelt is still saying it can provide you a global communications network for less than keeping everything on Earth. This is because SpaceBelt doesn’t have to pay — and then charge you — for access to all those leased lines. It just has to put seven to eight satellites in the sky, and after that bandwidth between them is free.
There are lots of questions, as this idea definitely breaks the mold. Can solar power generate enough electricity for such a system? How do you get rid of heat, as doing so in space is actually much harder without convection or conduction. And what about other birds in the sky being able to physically attack the data center that is floating up there with noone to protect it? Since Cloud Constellation is located right down the road from Raytheon (formerly Hughes Satellite), they probably have access to one or two people that have answers for questions like these.
It’s an interesting idea to be sure. Assuming it can answer all of the questions that keep popping up in everybody’s mind, this will surely be a unique offering. As of this writing, it is conducting a “pre-launch” in the literal sense. Hopefully it’ll be able to get this one off the ground.