Google said on Thursday that it signed a deal with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to use the space company’s growing satellite internet service, Starlink, with its cloud unit. SpaceX will install Starlink terminals at Google’s cloud data centers around the world, aiming to utilize the cloud for Starlink customers and enabling Google to use the satellite network’s speedy internet for its enterprise cloud customers.
The Starlink-Google Cloud capabilities, which include secure data delivery to remote areas of the world, will be available to customers by the end of 2021, Google said in a press release Thursday morning. SpaceX will install the first Starlink terminal at Google’s New Albany, Ohio, data center, a spokesman said, adding more plans on the partnership will be shared in the coming months.
The deal is a natural alliance for Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Google — which, in 2015, invested $900 million into the space company to cover an array of technology, including Starlink satellite manufacturing. So far, SpaceX has launched 1,625 Starlink satellites, with about 1,550 currently in orbit. A Starlink beta program that began last year has at least 10,000 users across the US, Canada, and a few European countries, with at least 500,000 deposits of $100 placed by potential customers of the service.
Competition is fierce between Musk’s Starlink network and the budding Kuiper Project from Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, which aims to launch more than 3,000 satellites in roughly the same orbit as Starlink to also provide global broadband internet. The Google-SpaceX deal marks another competitive win for Google in its own rivalry with Amazon’s behemoth cloud services unit, Amazon Web Services. Amazon executives have said they aim to leverage internet connectivity from Kuiper to supercharge its AWS cloud services.
“Applications and services running in the cloud can be transformative for organizations, whether they’re operating in a highly networked or remote environment,” Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of infrastructure at Google Cloud, said in the press release. Hölzle said 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 up and running.”
The Google deal involves delivering internet-data “access to businesses, public sector organizations, and many other groups operating around the world,” SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell said in the press release. “Combining Starlink’s high-speed, low-latency broadband with Google’s infrastructure and capabilities provides global organizations with the secure and fast connection that modern organizations expect,” she said.
Microsoft, which runs another massive cloud service dubbed Azure that also competes with Amazon’s cloud, also partnered with SpaceX last year in a similar partnership. Putting Azure cloud data through the broadband highway of Starlink, the two companies will be “co-selling to our mutual customers, co-selling to new enterprise and future customers” for data services, Shotwell said in a promotional video at the time.