Metro 100G is the talk of the optical sector, and on the roadmaps of every service provider great and small. The smaller network operators might not seem the most obvious candidates for 100G upgrades, but the reality is that bandwidth-chomping large enterprises and data centers are everywhere, and so are wholesale carriers' carrier opportunities. As one of our special features for optical transport month, we checked in with small but rapidly growing regional operator Comlink, which just this week announced the activation of its first 100G circuit. (See Comlink Enters 100G Race and Comlink Turns On 100G With Transmode.)
Here's an excerpt of our interview with John Summersett, chief operating officer of Comlink:
Light Reading: Comlink was in the news this week announcing its first 100G circuit. Can you give us more details?
John Summersett: It was for a carrier customer. I wish I could say which one, but we don't have approval to name them. We turned it up in December, just before the holidays. It runs from Lansing, Mich., down to Southfield, Mich. It's an aggregation circuit for the carrier's own use, tying their customers together on a segment where they needed the capacity. From order to turn-up, we were able to procure the gear, install it and implement fully into service within six weeks. Once we had everything from the equipment side and the design, we were able to do the rest within a couple of weeks. We've been asking other carriers and clients, and are not aware of anyone who has turned up a 100G circuit in Michigan. We know our biggest competitor has not.
Light Reading: Whose gear did you use for this launch, and why?
JS: We used Transmode Systems AB [TM series] sitting on top of our Cyan Inc. [Z Series platform ROADMs]. It's a concatenation of both platforms. We evaluated several companies, a critical mass of them, and one of the things that stood out as important to us was the ease of operations. Some 100G systems are fine, but the application of the software that runs the technology is not so intuitive, so it becomes laborious for the engineering and support people to use it and troubleshoot it. One of the things we distilled from our evaluation process, first with Cyan and now Transmode, is that their user interfaces for service provisioning and support are much easier to manage than others from the engineer's perspective. The derivative of that is better service for the customer because we're able to get the service up sooner, and troubleshoot the service faster. We're always evaluating vendors, but we're not looking to patch together a bunch of different solutions. So I think It will be a replication of this combination going forward. (See COMLINK Selects Cyan's Blue Planet SDN System.)
Light Reading: Who are your main competitors throughout your four-state (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois) network?
JS: AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is a big one, but we also work closely with AT&T. We're seeing more of the cable TV companies -- Charter Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK). Also, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL). We don't see a lot of Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT), but some, and then there are some regional carriers e compete with. But, it's really the nature of this business is that on the one hand you're competing with someone, and on the other you're providing service to them. We have a 5,500-mile middle mile network, and we started early as a carriers' carrier, but we also have some of our own lit buildings, and serve small, medium and large enterprises. We also have some DS-1s and DS-3s running around still for customers and end users who, for whatever reason, are not ready to converge over Ethernet.
Light Reading: So, you have may have first-mover status, but not for long, right?
JS: Right. 100G is coming fast and furious. I think to be fully relevant you have to have 100G, and I fully expect that every one of our competitors will ultimately offer it. Like any other new technology, it will start as opportunity-based, and then it will become necessity. We stock the equipment now on our shelves ready to deploy, so we can get the procurement time out of the way and deploy in two weeks. But I expect our competitors will be in the same boat.
Light Reading: What's happening in the network to create this sense of urgency?
JS: We certainly see demand accumulating in the metros, and also in the middle miles and the core and subsequently between those two. A lot of metros will on-board and off-board within the metro, and residual data is going to go back up to the core to get distributed out to other locations. As that traffic naturally aggregates, there will be operational 100-Gig links that are amalgamations of multiple applications carriers are bringing together to create efficiencies on 100G. There also again will be large enterprises users and data center clients that will be hungry for those 100 Gigs in their WANs, which may span multiple states. We're certainly at the cusp of the 100G network movement, and we're certainly fortunate to be an early mover on that.
— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading