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Facebook walks on optical networking's wild side

Stephen Lawson | March 11, 2014
As a company that draws more than 2 billion eyeballs per month, Facebook was a fitting harbinger of trends to come at an optical networking conference.

For the long-distance links between its growing data centers, Facebook is starting to buy and light up its own "dark fiber" capacity instead of leasing connections on carriers' networks. One reason is that leasing the kind of bandwidth Facebook needs is sometimes more expensive than just buying the fiber capacity. But by controlling the fiber itself, the company also can respond to rapid changes in traffic, he said.

"Leasing capacity takes too long. Usually four to six weeks," Ahmad said. "We want to be able to do it in four to six minutes."

That complaint echoed comments by others at the daylong conference. Quicker provisioning was one reason that collocation provider Layer 42 Networks got its own fiber, which it uses to sell network capacity alongside its other services, CEO Derek Garnier said. It's also something that BT hopes eventually to achieve through software-defined networking, said Andrew Lord, head of optical research at the U.K. carrier.

 

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