Apple beefing up iCloud infrastructure ahead of rumored TV push and streaming-music launch

Apple data center (Maiden, North Carolina, exterior 001)

As it gears up to launch its subscription music-streaming service today and a rumored television service later in the year, Apple’s reportedly been building out a high-speed network to ensure glitch-free delivery of content, Bloomberg reported Monday. But the firm isn’t just building a more efficient iCloud.

In a typical Apple fashion, it’s been pouring billions of dollars into upgrading how it builds data centers in order to speed up content delivery, and optimize services such as iCloud, iTunes and Siri.

Additionally, the initiative should help with iCloud outages that have become the norm lately as web services have traditionally been Apple’s weak spot.

Like Google and Facebook, Apple has realized it must design its own data centers in order to increase their efficiency. The company has been in talks with companies that can help it design its own equipment, which would be produced by third-party contract manufacturers.

Even though the company will continue to use off-the-shelf components like Hewlett-Packard servers, Cisco switches and NetApp storage gear for existing data centers, it’ll use more of its own solutions as it builds new facilities. Apple is also leasing server space from cloud providers such as Amazon and Microsoft.

One of Apple’s huge data centers is pictured below.


“Apple will stick with most of its existing vendors, and is mainly seeking to bolster its current infrastructure,” reads the report. For a company famous for tight control of the technologies that make up its products, content delivery over the Internet is the one part it doesn’t control.

That, too, should change soon.

Rather than rent pipes linking its four large U.S. data centers and Internet hubs, Apple would buy long-haul pipes connecting its data centers in California, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon and others.

This should ensure glitch-free delivery of music, high-definition video and other cloud-based content in densely populated markets. “Rather than buy off-the-shelf technology, the company has been working on ways to send data via fiber lines at hundreds of gigabits per second,” said sources.

One of the products being worked on is a bespoke top-of-rack switch based on open-source software from startup Cumulus Networks running on servers made by Apple supplier Quanta Computer.

The effort to design its own cloud reportedly extends to custom software controlling data centers. Apple’s highly automated system should automatically assign servers to handle demand, and turn down their power usage if they aren’t needed.

Should Apple unveil a live television streaming service as rumored, such a solution would allow iCloud to adapt to unexpected spikes or declines in viewership.

Seen below: Facebook’s data center in North Carolina.

Facebook data center (North Carolina 001)

Coincidentally, the Mesa, Arizona facility that was supposed to churn out sapphire glass before Apple’s partner GT Technologies went bankrupt was recently turned into a global command and control center for iCloud.

“If you’re using someone else’s networks and data centers, you lose some control,” said Steve Garrison, vice president of marketing at Pica8 Inc., a white-box networking company. “It’s hard to call Amazon at 10 o’clock on a Friday night and say ‘triple my capacity right now.’”

Further below: NSA’s secret data-sucking, number-crunching data center in Utah.

NSA data center in Utah

Apple spent $1 billion on data centers last year, filing as an Analysys-estimated seventh-largest cloud infrastructure spender in 2014. The iPhone maker said it would spend $3.9 billion this year on new data centers in Arizona, Ireland and Denmark.

Photo top of post: Apple’s multi billion-dollar server center in Maiden, North Carolina.

Source: Bloomberg