The Data Centre Opportunity for Cable Landing Stations

13th September 2017

By , Regional Sales Director APAC, Flexenclosure

The first ever submarine cable – laid in the English Channel in 1851 – heralded a new era of communication.  And nearly 170 years later the world’s oceans are now crisscrossed by hundreds of thousands of kilometres of cable – long enough to get to the moon and back, and with plenty to spare!

There has been no downturn in the need for these links though.  Quite the contrary in fact.  And as the world’s businesses and consumers continue to generate and consume data at exponential rates, new ultra-fast and ultra-high capacity cable laying projects are underway around the globe.

World Submarine Cable Map
Submarine cable map by TeleGeography

Transforming societies

The impact that a submarine cable can have on a community today can be just as significant as it was back in the late 1800’s.  The island nation of Palau, for example, is soon to be connected to the SEA-US trans-Pacific cable, which will link Indonesia to California via a number of stops in the Pacific, and it will provide Palau with its first ever direct fibre connection to the rest of the world.

”Being able to finally introduce reliable high speed Internet services to the nation’s 21,000 inhabitants is of huge importance to Palau, as the country is only connected via satellite today,” said George Rechucher, Chairman of Belau Submarine Cable Corporation (BSCC).  ”This has been a very long time coming and will help to transform Palau into a more globally engaged society.”

Service evolution needs scalable space

As soon as a cable connection is made, the volume of data traffic that it will need to handle will immediately start to grow.  Therefore, new landing stations that terminate undersea cables and connect them to land-based networks are increasingly being built with the option to expand them into fully fledged data centres – not simply to absorb the additional data load that pre-existing facilities were never designed to cope with, but also to provide the additional space required in order to be able to offer new data-based services.  This in turn provides the companies involved in financing cable projects the opportunity to maximise the returns on their investments – a vital goal given that undersea cable projects are typically extremely capital intensive.

Facility evolution

This growing need for additional scalable space in cable landing stations has consequently created the need for the construction method of these buildings to evolve.

Traditional brick and mortar construction simply doesn’t provide the speed, quality and flexibility needed in these scenarios.  Prefabricated facilities, on the other hand, are the perfect fit.  They can be fully built and tested in an efficient factory environment before being shipped to site for final installation – a particularly valuable characteristic given that coastal environments are not the easiest places to build high-tech facilities from scratch.  And they can be simply and quickly expanded module-by-module, adding white space for data racks when needed without interrupting ongoing operations.

Prefabricated facilities can also be built to the precise specification required to meet the environmental demands of their final locations, whether that be a Zone 4 seismic rating; Class C4/C5 surface protection for saline coastal areas; or able to withstand Category 5 cyclones.

That said, containerised data centres based on refurbished ISO shipping containers simply won’t fit the bill.  Bespoke prefabricated solutions such as Flexenclosure’s eCentre are the only viable option.

Watch a Flexenclosure eCentre Cable Landing Station being constructed in Sweden and then shipped to Palau for final installation and commissioning.

eCentre cable landing stations

BSCC’s new cable landing station in Palau is an eCentre facility.  Flexenclosure has a long history of pioneering the deployment of turnkey prefabricated data centres in some of the most inhospitable parts of the planet, and their eCentre cable landing stations have been specifically designed and ruggedized for the submarine cable industry.

As such, they bring all the benefits of a modular prefabricated data centre into the cable landing station environment, including open contiguous white space (for unlimited rack configuration flexibility); no ceiling height limitations (important given cable landing stations’ requirement for a specific bend radius); the flexibility to choose between a raised floor and/or false ceiling; and unlimited flexibility on the location and number of power distribution and cable management layers.  Related civil works are low-cost and fast to complete; the facilities can be expanded horizontally or – where available real estate is limited – vertically; they can be Uptime Institute Tier-certified; and they can be built to accommodate permanent staff or to be unmanned 24/7.

And as mentioned earlier, these facilities can be easily expanded to provide rack space for new colocation services or for hosting private clients’ equipment, thus adding additional revenue streams for the operator.

Prefabrication facilitating the future

Flexenclosure is also delivering two new eCentre cable landing stations for Samoa Submarine Cable Company (SSCC).  The eCentres will terminate the new TUI-Samoa submarine cable, connecting Samoa, Fiji, and Wallis and Futuna – an initiative that will (as with SEA-US in Palau) reduce the current dependence on satellite communications and accelerate the launch of innovative new services.

”Samoan people and the region will benefit from fast, reliable and affordable Internet which will open up opportunities for social and economic development, ” said Emmanuel Delanoue, CEO, SSCC.  ”Given the national importance of this project, we chose Flexenclosure to supply the cable landing stations as they have a very strong track-record in deploying turnkey, customised and ruggedized solutions able to withstand the harshest of weather conditions like those of the Pacific.  We are happy to see the contribution of Flexenclosure in providing scalable and cost-effective solutions even to remote places like Samoa.”