Case study

Testing the cloud's glass backbone

When most people visualize the cloud, they see an ethereal, non-physical thing that connects their devices to vast amounts of computing power and nearly unlimited troves of data and information.
For Andrew Blum, a writer for Wired and author of Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, that illusion was shattered on the day a squirrel chewed through the wire connecting his house to the internet. That rude reminder of the net's physicality sparked an interest in the infrastructure that makes the internet and the cloud possible - the globe-spanning tangle of wires, cables, routers, and data centers that most users take entirely for granted.
At the core of this physical network are fiber optic cables. Originally developed for endoscopes in the 1950s, to help doctors see inside the human body without performing surgery, fiber optic cables allow massive amounts of information to be shared at the speed of light (300,000 km/second) and, ultimately, make cloud computing possible.