The Data Center Interconnect (DCI) market is evolving rapidly and new compact, modular devices have been introduced to help network operators quickly and easily deploy new capacity to keep up with demand.  But, as the adage says, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.  So, what’s new with DCI and what hasn’t changed in the last year?

One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for more interconnect capacity.  Interconnect bandwidth growth is still on the rise, and it’s growing rapidly.   By 2020, interconnect bandwidth has been forecasted to grow up to 5,000 Tbps, with double-digit growth rates across a variety of industry segments from Cloud and IT to Healthcare and Energy1. All are poised to experience large capacity growth in the coming years, which means many of the same challenges from the past year still exist.

By 2020, interconnect bandwidth has been forecasted to grow up to 5,000 Tbps, with double-digit growth rates across a variety of industry segments from Cloud and IT to Healthcare and Energy

Network operators are challenged with keeping up with growing demand and offering content and/or services globally.  They also have a need for automation to speed bandwidth activation and improve their customers’ quality of experience.  On-going operational costs remain a challenge as well, with a need to reduce footprint and power consumption.

The industry has responded with new compact, modular, and highly-scalable solutions to help network operators easily expand DCI capacity.  These solutions, such as Ciena’s Waveserver family, offer a way to meet the growing bandwidth needs of the most demanding cloud and over-the-top applications and services, so network operators can deliver superior end customer experiences and increase their competitive differentiation.

While the insatiable need for bandwidth has remained the same, what has changed? 

New requirements have emerged that are expanding the application space for DCI and driving the need for improved efficiency and operations at other layers in the network. 

  1. More openness:  Platforms must support open APIs to ease back-office integration efforts, however that is no longer enough.  Operators want access to more data from the network through streaming telemetry.  Requirements are also emerging for new software architectures that allow installation of either vendor specific or 3rd party software components to optimize solutions for any DCI application.

  2. Increased information about the health of the network:  Along with more access to information and data through streaming telemetry, network operators need intelligent tools to perform analytics on the data and notify them where problems may develop in the network before they occur.

  3. Better network efficiency:  Enterprises and Government/R&E DCI applications tend to have lower capacity requirements, but need packet aggregation and switching to better fill wavelengths for transport across the DCI network.  That’s driving the need for solutions that integrate coherent plus packet, such as Ciena’s 8180 Coherent Networking Platform.

  4. Photonic layer scale and simplicity:  While compact, modular solutions have largely addressed scale for transponder/muxponder functionality, the photonic layer still has many of the same challenges we have seen for DCI.  Hyperscale data centers will consume thousands of fiber pairs in the coming years, so highly scalable solutions are desirable for the photonic layer in terms of nodal degrees and support for colorless add/drop.  Ciena’s 6500 Reconfigurable Line System (RLS) was designed for just this purpose.

Check out this IHS webinar, Scalable networks for data center interconnect, to learn more about the DCI landscape, current challenges, and the solutions that are emerging to solve them. Register here

  1. Equinix. “Global Interconnection Index.” Vol. 1, 2017.