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Optimising optical data centre interconnect strategy

Image: Adobe Stock / Siarhei

For years, optical Data Centre Interconnect (DCI) solutions were used solely to connect multiple data centres to ensure synchronous data replication for business continuity and disaster recovery. Only large organisations had the resources and skills to build the private optical networks needed to do this.

Not anymore. Today, it’s not just corporate giants that are taking advantage of optical DCI – and they’re doing much more than ensuring business continuity.

A recent report from The Brainy Insights put it this way: “With the growing demand for data storage and processing, as well as the increasing adoption of cloud computing, data centre interconnect has become a critical component of the IT infrastructure for many businesses. The increasing demand for high-speed data transfer and the need for seamless connectivity between geographically dispersed data centres are the key factors driving this growth.” The report projects that the total DCI market will grow at a CAGR of more than 16% through 2028.

Increasingly, enterprises are expanding the use of private optical DCI solutions for more day-to-day operational use, supporting load balancing and resource management as their Internet traffic grows and cloud migration expands. Private optical DCI solutions enable these organisations to get the scalability, control, reliability, and security of a private optical network with the agility, flexibility, and lower costs of the cloud.

Why is this possible now? There are several reasons. First, in most large metropolitan areas, there is an abundant supply of ‘dark fibre’, unused fibre optic network capacity that’s available for lease at an affordable price. Second, networking technology providers are building optical DCI solutions that are more affordable, accessible, and manageable for organisations that aren’t global mega-corporations.

As a result, optical DCI solutions are within reach of more organisations. The question now is how to optimise those capabilities to best meet each organisation’s unique needs.

That’s where partners come in. Utilising partners such as Global Systems Integrators (GSIs) is the best way to guide a company’s private optical DCI solution from strategy to deployment to ongoing management.

Issues and opportunities

Many organisations are facing data centre challenges, such as:

  • Increasing data volumes
  • The capital expense of expanding or building data centres
  • Efforts to reduce space and power consumption
  • The need to meet sustainability targets
  • The looming threat of technological obsolescence.

At the same time, most enterprises are looking for ways to minimise capital expense and ownership of depreciable assets such as data centre equipment.

Cloud migration can help enterprises address these challenges while also taking advantage of new opportunities for digital transformation. As a result, many organisations are consolidating and virtualising their data centres and moving to cloud models.

Moving to a cloud IT model enables organisations to choose from an array of cloud types, such as private and virtual private clouds where they need security and control, and hybrid and public clouds where they need agility and flexibility.

That’s where optical DCI solutions come in. Optical DCI solutions support the capabilities needed to interconnect all data centre resources in private, virtual private, public, and hybrid clouds. These capabilities include:

  • Very high bandwidth that scales to 10s of terabytes per second
  • QoS, performance, and reliability for cloud apps
  • Security, protection, and control of cloud data
  • Scalable IP, Ethernet, and wavelength services
  • Agility, flexibility, and dynamic interconnection

These capabilities give organisations the power to optimise and control their cloud and on-premises resources to their best advantage.

Why private optical vs managed DCI

Many businesses, government agencies, and public sector organisations use managed DCI solutions to connect their data centres. But as data volumes grow, managed DCI services are becoming increasingly expensive. They are also inflexible and incapable of prompt response to changing needs.

Private optical DCI solutions have become a more viable and affordable alternative. An organisation can create its own solution by leasing dark fibre and installing optical transport equipment. The cost of creating a web-scale DCI solution is offset significantly by the costs saved in consolidating multiple data centres and moving to more agile and flexible cloud computing models.

For example, let’s say there’s a large US enterprise with two data centres located within the same region. The data centres are on-net and within 75 km (46 miles) of a service provider central office. By opting to deploy a 100G private DCI using dark fibre to connect the data centres, the payback period for their modest CAPEX investment would be less than 10 months.  

The key role of partners

While optical transport equipment and dark fibre are readily available, expertise is required to develop, deploy, and operate an effective private optical DCI solution. Strategic expertise is necessary to understand an organisation’s current environment and business goals and envision the ideal end state. Enterprises also need the technical expertise to handle design, engineering, integration, installation, and operation of the DCI solution. Likewise, project management expertise is essential to create a workable plan, avoid business disruption, meet deadlines, and handle issues.

In addition, depending on their unique situation, enterprises may opt for: support services for hardware and software, including maintenance and repair; or additional services, such as construction, operation, and transfer services.

GSI partners can provide most of these services, as well as connecting organisations with additional qualified partners to complement their offerings and complete the solution.

Private optical DCI at a major international retail bank

How does the transition to a private optical DCI solution work in real life? Here’s an example of a large bank that was formed by the merger of several other banks. It’s a large institution, with more than 30 million customers, 8,000 branches, and 100,000 employees.

From an IT perspective, the bank’s challenges were to: consolidate the different IT infrastructures from the various branches; simplify processes and lower costs; and ensure separation of subsidiary group traffic and customer data for compliance reasons.

To maximise synergies, the bank decided to create a single ‘Group Network’. They would then be able to share resources and reduce the number of data centres, relocate some subsidiary IT resources, and enable subsidiary entities to be responsible for their individual operations.

With the counsel of a GSI partner, the bank chose to implement a private optical DCI solution. The GSI handled the planning, identification of dark fibre providers, equipment sourcing, installation, and operational training. The bank’s networking team is now responsible for operation and management.

The resulting solution is built around an optical network that provides scalable optical transport over leased dark fibre. An IP/MPLS overlay provides inter-and intra-data centre routing. Unified management supports both optics and IP/MPLS.

Growing DCI traffic has already prompted the bank to increase its wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) capacity to 40G. This was achieved at a marginal incremental cost, because all that was necessary was to add more wavelengths. With the solution up and running, the bank is now looking to further expand so that it can easily scale to 100G and beyond.

A new tool for a cloud-centred future

As this example demonstrates, private optical DCI is becoming a practical, cost-effective solution for more organisations across industries and the public sector.  It’s reasonable to assume that its usefulness will only grow as cloud migration expands further. The technology is there to support it. All that remains is to determine whether private optical DCI is worth exploring, and to find a partner who can work with you to turn your vision into reality.

Nathan Stenson
Nathan Stenson
Vice President – Global Partner Channel at Nokia

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