December 12, 2022
Microsoft has acquired a fiber technology company called Lumenisity in a move that could ultimately speed up the connections that Microsoft runs among its data centers and customers.
The purchase is also noteworthy in light of Microsoft's other recent acquisitions in the communications sector, which include Affirmed Networks, Metaswitch Networks and AT&T's core network operations.
Microsoft did not disclose the terms of its purchase of Lumenisity, but did elaborate on the reasoning behind the deal.
Figure 1: (Source: the lightwriter/Alamy Stock Photo)
"Lumenisity's innovative and industry-leading HCF [hollow core fiber] product can enable fast, reliable and secure networking for global, enterprise and large-scale organizations," Microsoft wrote of its purchase of the company. "The acquisition will expand Microsoft's ability to further optimize its global cloud infrastructure and serve Microsoft's Cloud Platform and Services customers with strict latency and security requirements. The technology can provide benefits across a broad range of industries including healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, retail and government."
Broadly, Lumenisity's hollow core fiber technology replaces the standard glass core in a fiber cable with an air-filled chamber. According to Microsoft, light travels through air 47% faster than glass.
Links to BT and Comcast
Microsoft isn't the only company interested in HCF technology generally and Lumenisity specifically. Both BT in the UK and Comcast in the US have tested Lumenisity's offerings.
Comcast announced in April it was able to support speeds in the range of 10 Gbit/s to 400 Gbit/s over a 40km "hybrid" connection in Philadelphia that utilized legacy fiber and the new hollow core fiber.
"As we continue to develop and deploy technology to deliver 10G, multigigabit performance to tens of millions of homes, hollow core fiber will help to ensure that the network powering those experiences is among the most advanced and highest performing in the world," said Comcast networking chief Elad Nafshi in the release issued in April.
Aside from faster speeds, Microsoft said HCF technology can also improve network security, lower costs and potentially shrink the need for repeaters for transmissions across long distances.
Lumenisity was formed in 2017 as a spinoff from the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton in the UK. "As part of the Lumenisity acquisition, Microsoft plans to utilize the organization's technology and team of industry-leading experts to accelerate innovations in networking and infrastructure," Microsoft said.
Broadly, Microsoft sells Azure-branded cloud computing services across its global network of data centers. The connections among those data centers – and to top Microsoft customers – may be affected by the company's acquisition of Lumenisity. Microsoft is also working to sell speedy cloud services to telecom companies specifically, in part to encourage them to run their network functions inside Microsoft's Azure cloud.
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