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How big is: Hurricane Electric (the internet backbone)

As part of a series in which Future-tech investigates the secrets behind the world’s largest technology and service providers, next up is one of the biggest companies you may have never heard about.

Ask the general public to list internet companies and you will no doubt get answers including the usual suspects: Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and perhaps even Alphabet, google’s parent company. Yet, how many people would include Hurricane Electric in this list?

Perhaps, not as many as should. Hurricane Electric has been operating under the radar for quite a while, yet this doesn’t seem to be holding the business back.

The global firm recently made headlines as it become the first internet service provider to connect with over 200 major unique internet exchanges and transfers traffic directly with more than 7,300 different networks.

Not only does the company operates its own global IPV4 and the largest IPV6 networks, it is considered to be the biggest IPV6 backbone in terms of sheer number of networks connected.

Essentially, Hurricane Electric provides its subscribers with access to the internet with the most diverse network connect points all across the globe. This is achieved through various Points of Presence (PoP) at more than 100 data centres situated all around the world, offering IPv4 and IPv6 transit solutions over the same connection. Such speeds that are available include 100GE (100 gigabits/second), 10GE (gigabit ethernet), and gigabit ethernet.

Network Cables Overhead in a Data Centre

Resilient fibre optics

To understand the present it’s important to under the company’s past, notably going back to 1994. This was when founder and current CEO Mark Leber, the mind behind the internet service giant, Hurricane Electric, started with his vision.

Purchasing a network turned out to be key move for Leber and what became the genesis for Hurricane Electric. Working in software engineering at the time, instead of consulting and setting up networks, he moved onto operating a network and servers as a business. The rest is history.

Fast forward to the present and to date Hurricane Electric has no less than five redundant 100G paths crossing North America and five separate 100G paths connecting this region to Europe. All employing a resilient fibre-optic topology. If that wasn’t enough, it also has 100G rings in Europe and Asia in its arsenal.

In addition to its vast global network, Hurricane Electric also owns and operates two data centres in Fremont, California, where the company is based – its newest facilities measure 200,000 square-foot in size.

The Internet Backbone

Hurricane Electric was recently described as ‘the Internet Backbone’, which is no small feat and should be taken as a compliment. This has essentially positioned the company as one of the principal data routes between large, strategically interconnected networks and core routers on the Internet. High-speed data transmission lines provide networking facilities to relatively small but high-speed Internet service providers all around the world.

Furthermore, data centre company EdgeConneX recently announced that it is providing strategic points-of-presence in ten key markets for Hurricane Electric. This included facilities located in: Clara, Seattle, Atlanta, Toronto, Nashville, Detroit, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

These new PoP’s will increase additional connectivity options that will allow access to 100GbE, 10GbE and GigE ports and, most notably, access to Hurricane Electric’s extensive IPv6 and IPv4 network.

“As early shapers of edge networking and illustrators of its benefits, EdgeConneX has been instrumental in bringing the ‘edge’ to its customers with one of the most comprehensive data center footprints,” said Walt Wolly, director of interconnection services at Hurricane Electric.

Future growth

Further to this, in February 2019, Hurricane Electric announced it would be setting up a new Point of Presence at 910Telecom in Denver, Colorado, a carrier-neutral telecom hotel and Denver’s nexus for international and domestic enterprises.

So just how big is Hurricane Electric, the backbone of the modern internet and perhaps a company you may have never heard of? In short, it is a global giant, and it is increasing in size everyday as it seeks to encompass the entire earth while providing more points of presence to allow a growing number of users get online.

Hurricane Electric’s growth is linked intrinsically with the growth of internet users. As many countries evolve from developing to developed, that number will undoubtedly grow, and so too will Hurricane Electric.