Today’s enterprise customers are demanding a more personalized, higher quality experience in every interaction, anytime, anywhere. That means real-time access to applications and responses that anticipate their needs. And they won’t hesitate to switch vendors if their needs are not met.

To thrive in this new world, enterprises are deploying technology that enables them to generate meaningful insights and actionable information from volumes of raw data. Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) enable enterprises to integrate intelligent data into all facets of customer interaction. But these technologies are also creating vast quantities of data that are putting data centre interconnect (DCI) networks under strain.

Modern data centre infrastructure – including flash storage – is adding to DCI challenges

To meet the latency and performance requirements of “zettabyte-age” technologies, enterprises are upgrading their data centre infrastructure, and especially their storage. With global data volumes doubling every two years, flash-based storage is the technology of choice with its ability to collect, filter, mine and transfer data in real-time.

The sub-millisecond latency of flash storage enables enterprises to uncover insights from mixed mass data far more rapidly – and make better decisions by leveraging the power of analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

This kind of capability allows finance companies to gain millisecond advantages over their competitors. Healthcare providers can enhance care with AI-enabled innovations and share huge imaging files between remote sites in real time for faster, better diagnoses. And organizations across all verticals can collect and analyze data from across the business to improve decision making and deliver better customer experiences.

Modern storage technologies are only as powerful as your DCI connections

While it’s natural to focus on modernizing the data centre first, optimizing the performance of flash storage and other latest-generation technologies depends on having powerful, highly scalable connections in place between your locations.

This is because the bigger the AI and ML workloads and applications, the greater the possibility of saturating the interconnect bandwidth.  That’s why many large enterprises are upgrading their Fibre Channel (FC) network to 16 Gbps or 32Gbps to alleviate congestion and maximize flash storage performance.

But while this is critical, maximizing the performance of modern data centre infrastructure isn’t the only consideration. Enterprises also need to ensure that all of their data remains available, all of the time. Anything less can lead to costly downtime and even put critical business data assets at risk.

To support this enterprise-class data resiliency, enterprises need to replicate and back-up their data in geographically separated data centres. Again, the interconnect capacity has to be scalable and resilient enough to meet the enterprise’s availability and performance requirements.

Flexible interconnect technology is key

To enable fast-paced innovation in the data centre – and especially in the storage environment – the networks providing interconnection between data centres must be able to:

  • Support a variety of protocols – 16G and 32G FC services is a must, however the ability to combine these with other services like 10G or 100G Ethernet provides operational and financial benefits.
  • Aggregate more signals over a single wavelength that can scale to 400G, therefore reducing the number of channels required for the different services, the number of transceivers required and the associated cost.
  • Offer a variety of protection and resiliency schemes - with the business-critical nature of these systems, it is imperative that the data always remains available; care must be taken to protect against both equipment and fiber failure scenarios.
  • Deliver cost benefits compared to traditional connectivity solutions by supporting higher FC speed circuits with no need for additional hardware anywhere in the network.
  • Scale to meet changes on demand – a programmable infrastructure, coupled with powerful analytics and software-based control enable greater adaptability to the latency and performance demands of a flash-based SAN.

Getting your DCI connectivity right with Ciena

Ciena’s market-leading 6500 Packet-Optical Platform addresses these critical requirements with the WaveLogic Ai (WLAi) FOTR modules, which enable operators to tune capacity from 100G to 400G, in 50G steps to maximize capacity for any distance.  These highly dense optical transponder interfaces support a wide range of services, including 16G/32G Fibre Channel and Ethernet, as well as Multi-Link Trunking capabilities for flexible, high-performance, cost-effective interconnection between storage arrays in data centres.

Combining the flexibility and programmability of the 400G WLAi FOTR modules with flash storage architecture and Gen6 Fiber Channel is the winning recipe to thrive in an increasingly competitive, “consumerized” world.