Google is considering expanding data center capacity in many places around the world where it currently caches content to deliver it faster to users in those locations, anonymous sources told Fortune. The 70 caching sites make up the company’s content delivery network.
Google is often mentioned as a cloud-services peer to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, but the scale of the data center network that support’s Google’s cloud infrastructure services pales in comparison to that of the two other cloud giants.
The subsidiary of Alphabet does have a wide-reaching, global fleet of massive data centers, but its infrastructure services, collectively referred to as the Google Cloud Platform, are served out of only four locations: South Carolina and Iowa in the US, Belgium, and Taiwan. Amazon’s cloud customers can choose from 11 regions around the world, while Microsoft’s cloud is supported by data centers in 17 geographic areas.
Having a wide variety of data center locations matters for a cloud service. One big reason is performance. Cloud users often set up redundant infrastructure across multiple locations, and having lots of location options to choose from makes it easier to do.
Another reason, which has been growing in importance since the Edward Snowden disclosures, is data sovereignty. More and more cloud users care about where their data and applications are stored physically, either because of their own data sovereignty concerns or because they’re forced to by regulations.
Google is reportedly considering ways to add capacity at its CDN caching sites by deploying data center pods that are much smaller than its core data centers. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
If confirmed, the plan would be a way to leapfrog Amazon and Microsoft’s cloud data center expansion. There are many ways to deploy small amounts of data center capacity quickly by using pre-fabricated modules that are shipped to location.
While this way to expand is faster, it doesn’t offer the kinds of economies of scale Google and other data center operators of its caliber achieve by constructing massive web-scale facilities. Fortune’s sources said if the plan comes to fruition, users may potentially pay more for placing their cloud infrastructure in these smaller-capacity locations.