Geek Alert: CenturyLink, Infinera Take Terabit Network to SC14

CenturyLink and Infinera this week are taking ultra-high capacity demand to where it's likely to be most appreciated -- SC14 in New Orleans -- to show how 100-Gig Ethernet services can be rapidly and easily deployed. (See CenturyLink, Infinera Take Terabit Link to SC14.)

Over a fiber connection from its point of presence in the Crescent City, CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) will offer 1 Tbit/s of super-channel transmission capacity to SCinet, the network built for SC14, the annual Supercomputing convention (the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis).

The capacity is being delivered on the national ultra-long-haul network CenturyLink built in little more than nine months, beginning in late fall of 2013 and wrapping up in August of this year, using Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN)'s DTN-X platform. (See CenturyLink Deploys Infinera DTN-X.)

According to Pieter Poll, senior vice president of national and international network planning at CenturyLink, the connectivity being delivered to SC14 comprises: two 100Gbit/s wavelengths going to New York; two more going to Chicago; one 100Gbit/s wavelength connecting Washington DC; two 100Gbit/s wavelengths going to Seattle and then on to Singapore; and a 100Gbit/s wavelength over a dedicated connection linking the Caltech campus in Pasadena.

Adding in basic Internet connectivity, that's a total capacity of 810 Gbit/s, Poll says, the most of any network supporting SCinet.

Just as importantly from his standpoint, all that bandwidth can be rapidly reassigned following the five-day convention event to support growing demand on CenturyLink's backbone network.

CenturyLink has been delivering 100Gbit/s Ethernet connections to research institutions under a Department of Defense contract, but is also experiencing growing demand from enterprises.

"What is unique is that we have actually now sold 100Gbit/s waves to others, and by others, I mean those that aren't tying core IP routers together, as well as 100-Gigabit Ethernet interfaces into the network," he says. "I think to show the benefit of this, you go to the place that has the most demand applications and SC14 is where that exists."

Want to read more about terabit deployments and plans? Check out our dedicated 400G-terabit content channel here on Light Reading.

CenturyLink has participated in the supercomputing industry event in the past and even tried to bring in a 100GigE link, but had found that too many physical network changes were needed to make it happen, Poll says. Now that service needs little more than a simple plugin, so the bandwidth can be deployed to the convention center and later deployed elsewhere as needed.

"This was a no-brainer -- we turned it up right away and if we need it elsewhere, we can move it elsewhere," Poll comments.

That ability to roll out a massive network with super-channel scale easily is something unusual for a company like CenturyLink, given its size and telco background, says Tom Fallon, Infinera CEO, who sees this as part of a joint philosophy that "time is a weapon."

"Few would want to do it, but even if they wanted, most wouldn't have the operational flexibility and urgency to be able to pull that off," Fallon says in praise of his customer.

The operational process for re-deploying the bandwidth is an automated one, Poll says, although the plugin upgrade to enable the bandwidth has to be deployed by field technicians. CenturyLink is working toward using SDN-based capability to reassign bandwidth but isn't there yet, and (for competitive reasons) isn't yet talking publicly about when that happens.

Most of the demand for this kind of bandwidth comes in the network core, but that is changing rapidly, Poll says. "We want to make sure we can we can quickly satisfy demands, whether that demand sits between our core routers, where Internet traffic is growing quickly and we have to make sure we don't have congestion, or where a customer is going to come in and want connectivity to a data center and, as we approach the holidays here, potentially want it deployed very quickly and for a very short period."

Both CenturyLink and Infinera believe the SC14 demo gives them a higher profile among the highest bandwidth users, something that will have its own commercial payoff down the road.

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

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