Optical/IP Networks

Data Center Opts for Dumb Pipe

Here's a warning for telecom service providers hoping to get a bigger piece of the IT spending budget for enterprises through cloud and managed services: ViaWest Inc. , a large privately held data center service provider, is actually moving in the other direction, looking for dumb, and in some cases dark, pipe.

Instead of buying more services from telecom players, ViaWest is choosing to operate its own infrastructure and accommodate growth through dark fiber. Last week, the company announced plans to buy packet optical transport gear and Network Operations Center services from Cyan Inc. (See ViaWest Deploys Cyan.)

The Cyan gear will be used on both carrier circuits and dark fiber, says Barry Dykes, chief strategy officer and vice president of engineering for ViaWest. Operating his own gear enables Dykes to accommodate the rapidly growing traffic among ViaWest's data centers more economically. He can buy a single 10Gbit/s pipe and use the Cyan gear to segment it into usable chunks rather than buy 10 individual GigE segments from a carrier, and he can buy dark fiber to accommodate multiple 10Gbit/s circuits.

But the real issue, Dykes admits, is one of trust. ViaWest offers a 100 percent service level agreement and is finding it's better to build its own internal expertise than to count on telecom service providers.

"I was finding that sometimes carriers didn't live up to our expectations," Dykes says. "Experience has told us a lot of times the carriers don't necessarily know where their own pieces are, circuits and such. We are really big about digging through all the details because the details matter -- that is where you get hurt."

With multiple carriers coming into each data center, Dykes finds it's better to have a dedicated group of employees who keep track of what the company is buying and from whom, and protect against overlap or vulnerabilities. The additional money spent on staff and expertise is offset by reduced spending on carrier services.

The data center/collocation business is booming, in part because a weakened economy has dampened the interest of many businesses in building their own facilities, when they can buy facilities as needed, according to Dykes.

Frank Wiener, vice president of business marketing at Cyan, sees ViaWest as indicative of a trend. As more large businesses look to data centers and cloud services, they are lighting up more transport traffic and looking for less expensive ways of doing it. More of them are considering doing it themselves.

"They can lease dark fibers from different providers to get route diversity," Wiener says. "And they already have staff on site 24/7 at the data centers that can handle problems. They don't have to wait 20 to 30 minutes for a service provider to respond."

Cyan is facilitating that trend by offering NOC services, which ViaWest is buying. Although also designed to help smaller telcos, the Cyan support can enable enterprises to do their own transport thing as well. (See Cyan Aiming High With Management Play.) — Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

AESerm 12/5/2012 | 4:53:12 PM
re: Data Center Opts for Dumb Pipe

"...carriers don't necessarily know where their own pieces are..." I've heard that before. And even if they can ID their own circuits, they might not be able to provision them effectively. But to enable a 100% SLA, these ViaWest pipes will have some intel, i.e. not be entirely dumb, right?

cnwedit 12/5/2012 | 4:53:11 PM
re: Data Center Opts for Dumb Pipe

I'm sure they are getting status information from their service providers, but my understanding is, they are running the show themselves, in terms of supporting that SLA, re-routing traffic when necessary, etc.

cnwedit 12/5/2012 | 4:53:10 PM
re: Data Center Opts for Dumb Pipe

I don't think they are running their services over the Internet. I think this is mostly private networking.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:53:10 PM
re: Data Center Opts for Dumb Pipe

Private networking means you need to have layer 1 or layer 2 connectivity (and you would have to be real clear about your form of layer 2) for every user.  No Layer 3 VPNs.  This really, really restricts what you can do (no mobile workers for example).

The vast majority of "cloud" stuff is accessed via the Internet or a VPN running over the Internet.

Still not sure why a dark fiber running IP is a dumber pipe than an IP pipe running from a carrier.  At the end of the day they are still bit shovels.  If carriers think they are going to sell QoS, then that ship has sailed a long time ago.  CDN - maybe - if it can be used to reduce cost.





"•  10 Gigabit connections to multiple leading providers for outstanding performance and redundancy.
•  Industry leading Cisco Border Router technology resulting in real-time routing decisions choosing the optimal path at any given time.
•  Multiple fiber optic service providers, with separate entrance points and redundant routes out of each facility, to ensure backbone availability.
•  24x7x365 proactive network monitoring
•  Bandwidth utilization reporting available via a customer portal.
•  Network capacity to handle large spikes in traffic to ensure the network is never saturated. ViaWest upgrades capacity if traffic reaches 40% utilization during normal operation or 60% upon a failure"

From the ViaWest website.


paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:53:10 PM
re: Data Center Opts for Dumb Pipe


I wonder how you get 100% SLA over the Internet....


paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:53:09 PM
re: Data Center Opts for Dumb Pipe


I think there is a defintional problem. If you want to offer a good SLA, you have to manage the bandwidth you are buying.  You need to get it from multiple sources and you need to track it 24*7*365.  All of that is independent of being layer 1, 2 or 3 based services.

The bigger challenge with using layer 3 based services is that general Internet problems can cause communications challenges for what you are doing independent of your own potential problems.  The advantage of using layer 3 based services is that they are accessible globally without distance charges without a predefined relationship.

I would love to see their definition that gets them to a 100% SLA.  Even a SONET switchover is 10msec (0 is not equal to 10).



cnwedit 12/5/2012 | 4:53:09 PM
re: Data Center Opts for Dumb Pipe

In this case, the "dumb pipe" reference is to the fact that ViaWest has it own carrier group that is managing those multiple fiber optic service providers they reference, and is buying its own equipment from Cyan - the same kind of equipment Cyan sells to service providers - rather than trust a service provider to do that for them.

They have tried to use service providers in the past but found they couldn't live up to the SLA ViaWest offers its customers.

Trouble 12/5/2012 | 4:52:47 PM
re: Data Center Opts for Dumb Pipe

It is certainly one thing to claim and offer a 100% uptime SLA, the devil indeed is in the details and the specific contract and what the penalites to be paid, when the SLA is not met, how the measurements are measured etc.


If a company is already comitted to this type of outsourcing agreement, they either have to replicate enough of a NMS strategy to measure there own system and application performance or are more than likely at the mercy of the provider.


Caveat Emptor

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