Windstream Taps Infinera for National Buildout

Windstream Communications today unveiled its plans to use Infinera's DTN-X optical gear to build its first national long-haul network based on DWDM.

The network announcement marks a major success for Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) and a significant step forward for Windstream Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: WIN), which has been assembling fiber optic assets through acquisition during the past few years and is now ready to hook them up. (See Infinera Lands Windstream DWDM Buildout.)

In this instance, the "national" aspect doesn't actually include the West Coast, although further acquisitions to push Windstream's physical assets beyond Denver, where they currently end, can be expected. For now, CTO Randy Nicklas, an industry veteran who led XO Communications Inc. s' national buildout, is focused on creating a network capable of supporting the massive growth in bandwidth from mobile backhaul, cloud services, business data networking, and even consumer broadband. (See Windstream Names Nicklas CTO.)

"We have bandwidth demands and we have an interesting fiber plant, concentrated in two-thirds of the country," Nicklas told Light Reading. "What we don't have is a national long-haul DWDM network. We have chosen Infinera and the DTN-X to build that network, hitting major metro areas, to match our existing regional roadmap. It's a great platform for our needs."

Windstream is clearly standing up to compete more aggressively, in delivering a wide variety of services and in connecting its 27 data centers to build its cloud offerings as well. (See Windstream Makes Regional Cloud Play.)

Specifically, Nicklas says, Windstream likes the ability to turn services up quickly using the Infinera box, especially the 100G wavelength services. Infinera's software uses the combination of its 500Gbit/s FlexCoherent superchannels and integrated 5Tbit/s optical switch to enable automated service delivery.

"Establishing an actual wavelength service is easier to do on an Infinera platform and that adds up for Windstream, because we are new to the long-haul intercity DWDM space," Nicklas says. "We don't have a lot of experience among our technical staff so ease of use was an important consideration as well as ease of deployment."

Windstream will not be deploying new long-haul fiber -- the company does add new fiber today but in what Nicklas terms "tributary" routes. One of its challenges will be knitting together a single network using physical fiber of many different types from its many acquisitions, which include Paetec, KDL, Iowa Telecom and more. (See Windstream's Plan for Paetec and Windstream Buys Iowa.)

"There are lots of challenges from having different fiber types," he says. "We are doing a small amount of moving existing lightwave systems off of fiber to clear the road, but for the most part, we are using fibers that were dormant."

That means turning up optical systems to test the fibers, repair breaks, and address issues such as too many splices.

"Basically, we have to keep building the track ahead of the train," Nicklas says.

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

Carol Wilson 3/10/2014 | 4:38:51 PM
Re: Time and time again - provisioning speed "..how much does the average - non-Google, non-Netflix type enterprise grown annually in bandwidth?"

Interesting question, worth pursuing. 
brookseven 3/10/2014 | 4:03:28 PM
Re: Time and time again - provisioning speed Carol,

I think you are beginning to see, but let me put it this way on policy management.  Just remember its programming the network, just like all the rest of this.  It will need to be really complete and very heavily tested.  

Of course, I am not a very nice man when it comes to my extremes of thinking about this.  The single most obvious implementation is for Disaster Recovery.  That makes sense as its a temporary, unplanned condition.  Unfortunately, that means dozens or hundreds of changes might be requested at the same time and might cause all kinds of circular conflict.  Here I am not thinking about a fire at a factory, but instead a Hurricane landing in say Washington DC (better place for one to go I can't imagine).

Which means all that extra resources might be gone.  Of course if you have built them and paid for them, how are you selling them when there is no disaster.  Using dynamic pricing like airlines and hotels?

Because where I have used Virtualization to save on Capex is in tuning my resources for these kinds of outages.  Hey I have a server or two go down, okay shove the extra load over here and hope for the best.  Hey its better than being totally down.  Lose a big chunk of capacity and we are SOL.  

One other thing about all this bandwidth that is being deployed.  Isn't it all for Netflix?  I mean how much does the average - non-Google, non-Netflix type enterprise grown annually in bandwidth?




Carol Wilson 3/10/2014 | 2:28:12 PM
Re: Time and time again - provisioning speed I thought policy management would be used to prioritize network requests so the most important get fulfilled and the others get the best-effort response. 

But of course, by the time we get virtualization, we'll also have massive capacity upgrades so that scarcity of resources won't be as big an issue, right? Right?

As for union concerns about automation screw-ups, I constantly hear management concerns about human screw-ups. It will be interesting to see where this meets in the middle. 
brookseven 3/10/2014 | 1:24:50 PM
Re: Time and time again - provisioning speed They pursue the automation at the tech level...then it hits ops...and dies.

The problem is troubleshooting and inventory.  I think that is the challenge of change.

Let me pose a problem...Suppose a network has an SDN request or an NFV request that it can't fulfill or if it does fulfill it will screw up another customer?

In a data center, which is essentially 100% connected with massive pipes that is not a problem.  In a network which has fixed resources and sparse connectivity not so simple.

There are also union issues. Union workers don't want to be blamed for the screwups of automation.  This is a bigger issue than you might think as it makes them resist using automation.

Smaller carriers tend to have things overcome by the lack of people to care quite so much.


Carol Wilson 3/10/2014 | 12:50:03 PM
Re: Time and time again - provisioning speed On the automation thing - every network operator, large and small, says they are pursuing automation of manual processes. Why is that bad for larger carriers? I understand the loss of control but aren't many of these processes things that don't involve a lot of variation? 
Carol Wilson 3/10/2014 | 12:48:36 PM
Re: Time and time again - provisioning speed Seven,

I don't honestly know the impact this will have on Cyan. Randy Nicklas says Windstream continues to built out the tributary network pieces that feed into this long-haul network and that would be positive for Cyan. But the projections from Cyan have indicated shrinking business with Windstream. 

brookseven 3/10/2014 | 12:30:57 PM
Re: Time and time again - provisioning speed 1 Comment - 1 Question:

Provisioning Simplicity:  I have seen this as a big postiive in small carriers and in many ways a huge negative in the large ones.  The simplicity implies automation which means loss of control.  I think we will have to see how this evolves.

Question:  Think this is a positive or negative for Cyan given that Cyan has been heavily dependent on Windstream.


Carol Wilson 3/10/2014 | 10:40:55 AM
Re: Time and time again - provisioning speed As Randy Nicklas notes, it's a major thing for service providers to be able to automate these processes because they can't throw the technical manpower at the problem. 

I think the ease of provisioning issues are going to loom large and the vendors that solve them are going to be successful. 
[email protected] 3/10/2014 | 8:38:57 AM
Time and time again - provisioning speed Righyt fom the very first engagements, the reaction from operators re Infinera's gear has been that it is comparatively simple to deploy, turn on and then use to quickly provision services.

That's gotta be a winning long-term position, right? 
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