Data Center Interconnect

Windstream Uses Infinera Inside the Data Center

It's well known that the last mile of access is often the most expensive, but what about that last several hundred feet? That's a challenge Windstream was trying to solve as it provided data center interconnection, and the answer proved to be Infinera's Cloud Xpress, as the two companies announced today.

Windstream Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: WIN) is using the Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) technology on specific floors within the Lakeside Technology Center at 350 East Cermak in Chicago, to connect to data center customers. It is the first deployment of transport gear by the company within a data center that it doesn't own and operate, says Jeff Brown, director of marketing and product management for Windstream.

"We are heavily in the business of providing transport services to other companies," he says. In fact, data center interconnection is a major focus for Windstream of late. In facilities such as 350 E. Cermak, however, Windstream's demarcation point is its own suite, and if the customers to which it wants to connect are on a different floor or in a different suite, a connection has to be made between the two locations. (See Windstream Picks Up DCI Mantle.)

"It becomes a complicated process," Brown says, involving negotiations as to who provides what, and potentially increased prices to the customer for the additional connection that can make a bid less competitive. By installing pre-provisioned Cloud Xpress units on floors where it has or expects to have customers, Windstream can make that intra-data center interconnection a faster, more seamless and more efficient process.

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"The speed of install and ease of connectivity are very important to us," Brown says. "We have specific floors where we know we have quite a bit of demand and we have deployed Carrier Ethernet equipment on those floors, and the fiber is lit between them."

Cloud Xpress worked in this environment because of its small form factor and low power consumption, and its ability to offer a simple but scalable plug-and-play solution. As Windstream looks to SDN, Infinera is one of the technology partners with which it is working to use SDN to deliver flexible optical services across both its metro and long-haul transport networks, says Art Nichols, vice president of Engineering Architecture & Planning at Windstream, in the statement announcing the deal.

One of the advantages of this approach is that it eliminates the dreaded "o-e-o" or optical to electrical to optical conversion process that can be necessary using traditional cross-connects to move traffic within the data center, Brown notes. With this approach, the signal stays optical, which reduces expense, points of failure and unnecessary complications in the transport process.

Windstream is already eyeing 60 West Hudson, a major New York facility, for potential deployment of Cloud Xpress, Brown says. Beyond that, it is likely to be used in a limited set of large data centers.

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

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