Preparing for 100 GigE
In a precipitously growing wired world, more and more people across the globe desire to be connected. As reported by Forrester Research (www.forrester.com) in 2010, the global Internet population grew from 1 billion to 1.6 billion within a 5-year span. And within our Global Tier 1 IP Network alone, NTT America’s traffic volumes increased exponentially in that same time period, highlighted by our eclipsing the 500 G capacity level on our Trans-Pacific path in August 2011. As this multi-decade long trend continues, the Internet community must have the next step in data transport capacity come to fruition to support the rapidly evolving requirements of the industry.
The Road to 100 GigE
Ethernet as a standard was originally developed in the early 1970s at Xerox PARC by Bob Metcalfe and some other staff, with the patent being filed in 1975. Potentially the most important aspect of Ethernet’s development was not superior technology, but rather a very rapid level of standardization that was fostered by the DIX (Digital/Intel/Xerox) consortium that Metcalfe assembled after he had left Xerox and started 3Com. The most common competing technologies to Ethernet at the time were Token Ring and Token Bus, but by the mid-1980s the dominant standard in the marketplace was clearly Ethernet. Today, after roughly 30 years in service, Ethernet has a level of comfort and trust within the industry and a very effective cost profile, which has made it truly ubiquitous.
With the perpetual increases in Internet usage following the broad adoption of Gigabit Ethernet (GigE), NTT America was one of the first Tier-1 Internet Service Providers to recognize the increased bandwidth needs of the industry and responded accordingly by providing 10 GigE ports to customers early in 2006. Looking ahead to 2012, we are taking the same approach to opportunities with 100 GigE ports -- albeit on a greater scale. Broad deployment of 100 GigE interconnections will enable telecoms offering FTTH, cable providers with HFC cable modems and wireless companies leveraging 4 G speeds for their data users to actually provide promised download speeds and a network free of congestion.
Demands on the Internet will continue to grow as the application of video evolves and people increasingly live their lives on the Internet via sites like Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube. In fact, according to Forrester Research, 2010 marked the first year that consumers spent just as much time online as they did in front of their televisions. Further, a late-2010 study cited in Multichannel News revealed that North American households are using a median of 4 Gigabytes per month of Internet bandwidth, rising steadily from 3 Gigabytes per month in 2009. Overall, Internet usage patterns continue to transition from cache and storage to real-time and over-the-top (OTT) content.
Over the last few years as traffic volumes have continued to explode on a global level, the way most operators have tried to create efficiency is through the bundling of multiple 10 GigE ports. While this approach has created some benefits, in the end it is nothing more than a stop-gap measure to bide time until 100 GigE can be deployed in a cost effective manner. Given these realities of traffic growth and sheer end-user demand, customers are looking to deploy 100 GigE ports early in 2012.
Assessing the Opportunity
As a provider and operator, the next level of connectivity to meet the needs of your customers (largely the ISPs) will be 100 GigE. Below is a brief synopsis of the current driving factors shaping the 100 GigE ecosystem.
Cost of Infrastructure: In simplistic terms, for a single 100 GigE port investment to be worthwhile, the benefit must come near or exceed deploying 10x10 GigE ports. There are many factors that surround the determination to migrate to 100 GigE level ports, such as your current hardware platform, next-generation hardware requirements, timing of a platform replacement cycle, and your overall cost of capital. All of these ingredients combine into your particular recipe that results in a definitive CapEx cost profile. That cost of infrastructure is a key element in a successful 100 GigE deployment.
Network Management Costs: Even if the infrastructure cost profile noted above is not entirely beneficial, one additional element to be considered is the sheer reduction in operational management effort and time by reducing the actual number of interconnections that must be managed. It most likely isn’t valid to conclude that there is a linear correlation of OpEx cost to reducing the number of interconnections, but there is certainly leverage created in taking 10 separate connections (even if bundled) and replacing those with a single connection. As these types of efficiencies are propagated throughout an entire network, the benefit of reducing the operational load is incremental and ongoing as the network continues to scale.
Traffic Trending: It is undisputed that overall Internet traffic is perpetually growing over time; however, the usage patterns of end users have been much less predictable. Roughly 10-12 years ago almost all content was sourced from either single or a small number of origin locations, and traffic had to traverse the Internet for very long distances. After about 5-6 years, a major shift occurred where content providers had either deployed their own infrastructure further to the edges of the network or utilized a CDN provider to improve the overall end user experience, which utilized a fairly large amount of cached content. As user expectations continue to shift in the next few years to demand a more fully engaged and interactive experience, these cache-based solutions won’t be as able to provide this same historical benefit. The need to have the largest and most maximized connections will become an even larger requirement given this evolution in user expectation.
How to Get Prepared
Here are 3 steps to follow to determine if deploying 100 GigE is right for you:
Product Requirement Analysis: The first step in knowing if a technology investment is right for your business is to take the time to fully understand your business goals and objectives before committing. Review your historical trends and evaluate your growth projections in the next 2 to 5 years. Identify what new products and services you will be launching in the mid-term and predict traffic usage based on those plans. By understanding your historical data utilization and factoring your projected usage requirements in the future, you can gain clarity on what opportunities exist to revamp your current infrastructure.
Provider Analysis: Evaluate your existing vendor as well as other provider options available. The best is one that can scale quickly to meet your needs and offer the flexibility to adapt to the demands of your customer and overall business requirements.
Below is a quick checklist of qualities to consider in your vendor:
• Are there capacity limitations on the vendor’s network? What about IP address limitations? (Look for IPv6 or Dual Stack capabilities.)
• What is the vendor’s implementation process for integrating new infrastructure?
• When was the last major technology platform the vendor deployed?
• Is the vendor’s quality of customer service at the level that will meet your needs in the future?
• Does the vendor’s network scale, and will it be reliable to meet the projected requirements you have for the future?
Hardware Vendor Analysis: Taking the time to dig as deep as possible into the current and planned hardware platforms that you may use to deploy 100 GigE ports is also a necessary requirement. Both software and hardware must be evaluated, preferably in a controlled lab environment where interoperability and full testing can occur. As discussed earlier, the actual functionality of the hardware is one aspect of this evaluation, but the financial considerations must also be included in the assessment.
After considering all of the conclusions of these steps, as well as any other factors pertinent to your business, then you should be in a good position to make a determination about the “if and when” of 100 GigE deployment for business.
Based on the current and estimated near-term cost elements for 100 GigE, the best guess is that the marketplace will begin deploying these ports in the first half of 2012 for the early adopters. As that rate of adoption increases and the hardware cost profile continues to compress, deployments will increase rapidly -- in part due to the sheer demand for bandwidth.
If you subscribe to the notion that 10 GigE was in a mass deployment stage late in 2008 then you may agree with my prediction that by mid-2015 we will be living in an Internet world where 100 GigE has also reached a level of critical mass.
Michael Wheeler is the VP, Global IP Network Business Unit of NTT America. Wheeler brings more than 15 years of sales management and operational experience in the Internet/data communications industry to NTT America. For more information, visit http://us.ntt.net.
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