The Evolution of Connectivity – Automating the Fiber Layer

In this edition of Voices of the Industry, Bob Shine, VP of Marketing and Product Management at Telescent, shares insights on how MTDC connectivity can evolve to meet customer demands.

automating fiber

Bob Shine, VP of Marketing and Product Management, Telescent

The past decade has seen rapid evolution in almost every industry.  Entertainment has progressed from visiting a Blockbuster store (where the movie you wanted may have been out of stock) to instant streaming of any title available on Netflix.  Package delivery has also undergone a revolution where in the past it might take over a week to receive your order to today where Amazon Fresh can deliver items in as little as 2 hours.  Many digital services have also undergone a similar evolution – with software defined networking allowing the instant provisions of servers, storage, and switches.  As these examples have shown, customers have become accustomed to almost instant access to what they want.  However, for multi-tenant data centers (MTDC) connectivity is still stuck in the manual stage of delivery with physical cross connects still requiring days to a week to be executed.

The Evolution of Connectivity (Source: InterXion SEC Form 425 Filing, February 2020)

The Evolution of Connectivity (Source: InterXion SEC Form 425 Filing, February 2020)

In a presentation last year discussing its merger with Digital Realty, European MTDC InterXion highlighted the evolving requirements for connectivity-based services. In the past, services centered on simple connectivity where customers connected to carriers and internet exchanges.

“Today, customers are looking for on-demand access to marketplaces and digital services.” Bob Shine, VP of Marketing and Product Management at Telescent

While the basic business needs of connecting communities of interest such as enterprises, platforms and carriers is still the main value offered by multi-tenant data centers, transitioning from internet exchanges to marketplaces with on-demand services requires a new method of serving customers.

Similarly, in a recent presentation discussing its proposed merger with a special purpose acquisition company to go public, Cyxtera highlighted three areas of focus for their strategy.  These are:

  • To make their data centers easier to consume
  • To make it seamless for their customers to connect to each other
  • To support their customers’ automation initiatives

The presentation goes on to describe how they want to allow their customers to dynamically create secure networks in real-time and directly connect to their service providers of choice with the click of a button.  Clearly this is not possible with the manual provisioning of fiber cross connects and relies on a new approach to meet their customers demand for instant services.

Customer Benefits through Automation

Before discussing solutions to meet these customer demands, it is worth understanding what benefits software provisioning of cross connects brings to enterprises and service providers.  One example can be highlighted by a conversation Telescent had with a cloud services company.  The CEO of this cloud service company believes he could significantly increase revenue by offering trial periods of his services or easy proof of concepts since it would let customers try before they buy and establish the differentiation of his services.  Instant provisioning of cross connects could make this vision a reality.  However, today it takes a week for a cross connect to be delivered and commitments must be made for at least a year.  Clearly with those constraints it is impossible to offer demos or tests of his services, hindering his business.

This increased revenue focus also works at the other end of the spectrum with hyperscale operators.  The sooner customers can be connected to their network, the sooner they can start collecting revenue.  This becomes very significant considering the size of their network and explains why hyperscale operators are often willing to pay expedite fees to have customer connections implemented within 24 hours or less.

Automated Systems Meet Today’s Needs

With the customers need for on-demand cross-connects established and MTDC operators realizing that the market has evolved, what options should you be looking for? Here are few:

  1. Look for a Network Topology Manager (NTM) that uses a robot to remotely configure and reconfigure cross connects, preferably in minutes not hours.  When a reconfiguration is requested, a robot-driven gripper removes an internal fiber from the original port and moves it to the desired new port.
  2. Find a pay-as-you-grow model, ideally one that can scale from as few as 144 ports to >10,000 ports while still preserving the ability for any-to-any connectivity.
  3. You’ll want to have multiple NTMs in a network that can be controlled by software that integrates with your existing systems can be easily accomplished using the REST API.
  4. Power monitoring and systems allows additional diagnostic capability of the attached fiber plant are ideal.
  5. Finally, you may want NEBS Level 3 certified to ensure reliability.

Everything moves faster today, and customers have come to expect instant gratification.  Faster delivery of services helps improve customer satisfaction and enable new business capabilities.  Several MTDC operators have embraced the need to bring automation to the physical fiber connections.  Those that don’t adapt new technology to meet customer demands may be left behind, just as Blockbuster was in the movie rental industry.

This article was written by Bob Shine, VP of Marketing and Product Management, Telescent. Telescent’s Network Topology Manager (NTM) uses a robot to remotely configure and reconfigure cross connects in minutes. To learn more, contact Telescent today.  

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