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Equinix CTO: Open Source Critical for Interconnection

The exchange operator is carefully tracking progress on open source to fuel massively scalable interconnections of the future.

April 17, 2017

4 Min Read
Equinix CTO: Open Source Critical for Interconnection

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Open Networking Summit – Equinix sees open source as a critical aspect of its ability to be the place where networks and data centers converge, connect and share data, and that view is fueling its efforts to be an early tester of what the Open Compute Project and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) are developing.

Equinix CTO Ihab Tarazi tells Light Reading in an interview here earlier this month that the next-generation architecture toward which telecom networks are evolving will require massive scaling of the Equinix interconnection model that will depend on open source approaches to manage the disaggregation of hardware and software that virtualization is enabling.

Today, through its Internet Exchange and Cloud Exchange, Equinix connects 1,400 networks and 2,600 different clouds, public and private, he says. The next generation of interconnection will require massive scaling, Tarazi comments, to integrate the many different software and hardware players.

"I personally believe that what we are going through on a global basis, networks and clouds are going through a new architecture, leveraging all the open source hardware and software, and that new architecture is cloud-based," he says. At events such as ONS, "we are looking at readiness and capabilities of the different players because they are all our partners today, so we can see who do we want to work with on the next-generation interconnection."

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For a company the size of Equinix to manage that integration will require leveraging the expertise of open source organizations and the network operators themselves, which is why Tarazi is looking carefully at developments such as Google's Espresso announcement and the formation of the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP). (See Google Caffeinates Cloud With Espresso.)

"We use the open source communities to leverage what they have already solved and we also leverage the skills" of carrier partners, he says. "So we are not trying to solve all the issues, we are trying to figure out how we take their expertise and leverage it. This is where I feel open source is such as fantastic thing. A company like ours -- we aren't staffed sufficiently to solve these issues at the magnitude of an AT&T or a Google, ever. And so, therefore, all the capabilities they are making available and releasing are all useful for us to leverage."

Tarazi co-chairs TIP's Open Optical Packet Network project group with Facebook's Hans-Juergen Schmidtke, and Equinix tested the Facebook-designed packet-optical switches, known as Voyager, over dark fiber between two of its data centers in late 2016.

"We also worked with Facebook to test the open source software, the different options that are available," Tarazi says. "You heard about SnapRoute that AT&T is using [in its open source hardware] -- there are dozens of those options."

The company is also testing different SDN controllers, including OpenDaylight and ONOS, but that work is in its early stages, he says.

"This is how the world will look like in the future. You are going to have all of these different options that are available," Tarazi says. "Think of them as new network service providers -- each one is going to solve some networking challenge. What we are solving for is how all these come together because today they come together at Equinix. And data and traffic moves between them."

That solution will primarily involve the architecture required to massively scale interconnection -- Equinix is counting on the open source community and networking companies to figure out many of the details themselves, and Tarazi is impressed with the progress made in the last year.

"It has been impressive, from where we were a year ago to where we are now," he says. "I definitely think the move to open source is much more firm and meaningful than we have ever heard before. I also would say the Linux Foundation is playing a significant role for networks not just clouds."

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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