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Carrier Pwns NYC/Chicago Latency

Well, here's one way to create a low-latency network: Draw a straight line and just build your own fiber along it.

The reason people aren't slapping their foreheads saying "Why didn't I think of that?" is because, of course, it takes a lot of time and a lot of money to do that. But if you've got both, you can be like Spread Networks , which today announced a New York-to-Chicago dark fiber network built for low latency. (See Spread Unveils Low-Latency Network.)

Spread drew up a fiber route that, it says, is as straight as possible, with allowances for lakes, highway systems, people's houses, and the like. There's no telling if the map below (taken from Spread's Website) is perfectly to scale, but it illustrates the idea, anyway.



The money came from The Barksdale Group, a venture firm whose founder, James Barksdale, is also Spread's chairman. His name might be familiar from, well, everywhere. Barksdale has been a top executive at FedEx, McCaw Cellular, AT&T Wireless (because it bought McCaw), and Netscape (you remember those guys).

"We were approached about two-and-a-half years ago by someone who was in the industry and aware there wasn't dark fiber available along that route that was low latency," says David Barksdale, James's son and Spread Networks' CEO. "In fact, I'm not sure there's any dark fiber at all along that route."

Much of the intervening time was spent getting rights-of-way established through five states and, of course, installing the fiber.

The market for low-latency networks -- that is, networks with short transit times between endpoints -- is mostly limited to the financial community, but they're apparently willing to spend big for the feature. Equipment providers eagerly describe how a matter of microseconds can win a coveted trade. (See Interop Wrap: Latency Craze, Infinera Touts Low Latency, Transmode Touts 4 Nanosecond Latency, and BTI Goes Low Latency.)

"Being second or third place isn't good enough. You've got to be first, or you're gonna get pwned," says Andrew Schmitt, an analyst with Infonetics Research Inc.

So, Spread's marketing focuses on a round-trip transit time of 13.33 milliseconds along its 825-mile fiber router.

That's a few milliseconds shorter than anyone else has advertised. Jim Theodoras, director of technology marketing for ADVA Optical Networking , says the shortest Chicago/New York round-trip time he's found advertised is 17.1ms. ADVA director of business development Brian Quigley, being quoted by A-Team Insights, claims that 15.9ms connections are out there.

David Barksdale won't say how much was spent building the network, but it certainly wasn't cheap, especially considering Spread caters to what he admits is "a relatively limited market." The network will have other uses, though; an affiliated company called Northeastern ITS will use it for wireless backhaul, for instance.

On the equipment side, Spread has certified low-latency gear from four vendors: ADVA, Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN), and JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU). Financial institutions leasing fiber from Spread will build their own links, from the pool of approved gear.

For the chosen four, that opens up the possibility for managed-services revenue, because these customers aren't optical experts. "Their focus is on the trading, the computers, and the software. They don't want to think about the transport network," Theodoras says.

Spread has trumped any other provider's low-latency offering between New York and Chicago, Infonetics' Schmitt says. But one thing still bothers him:

"If this is so lucrative, why doesn't somebody just do it with microwaves or something like that? Get right above the ground and get a straight line?"

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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Abundant_bits 12/5/2012 | 4:31:39 PM
re: Carrier Pwns NYC/Chicago Latency

Craig,


I believe that "blip" on the fiber route you mention is induced by Lake Erie, not Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is the Rolling Stones tongue-like lake that is unsuccessfully trying to envelop Chicago.


Erie, or "The North Shore" as I called it in my youth, is that bulbous protrusion into what would be an exceedingly flat and boring portion of northern Ohio, save for the presence of the lake, which makes it  just nominally flat and boring.


I take it you're a west coast kind of guy?

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:31:39 PM
re: Carrier Pwns NYC/Chicago Latency

Thanks, but I really did mean Lake Michigan.


We're looking at different blips.  The Lake Erie blip is caused, I think, by the fiber following the highways -- but on eyeballing a regular road map, it looks like a true NYC-to-Chicago straight line might not intersect Erie anyway.  (I don't have a globe handy to get an exact fix on that. Anyone want to check?)


Such a straight line *would*, however, have to cross the southern tip of Lake Michigan.  That's the part I was talking about.

Stevery 12/5/2012 | 4:31:39 PM
re: Carrier Pwns NYC/Chicago Latency

"If this is so lucrative, why doesn't somebody just do it with microwaves or something like that? Get right above the ground and get a straight line?"


I too am a member of the flat-earth society.  If only there were more of us, perhaps we could start a company to make straight line transmission work in the microwave world.


shygye75 12/5/2012 | 4:31:39 PM
re: Carrier Pwns NYC/Chicago Latency

For a second there, I thought we had time-tripped back to 1998. Then I checked the World Cup results and saw Les Bleus are mort. Let's see how big a market there is for a couple of milliseconds.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:31:38 PM
re: Carrier Pwns NYC/Chicago Latency

Even the flat earth society would have to deal with the delays caused by the large number of u-wave repeaters.  Not to start on the less bandwith and higher BER (wait till it rains!).


 


seven


 

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:31:36 PM
re: Carrier Pwns NYC/Chicago Latency

 


Good one Stevery!


Gave me a great chuckle this morning.


 


seven


 

Stevery 12/5/2012 | 4:31:36 PM
re: Carrier Pwns NYC/Chicago Latency

Even the flat earth society would have to deal with the delays caused by the large number of u-wave repeaters.  Not to start on the less bandwith and higher BER (wait till it rains!).


We here at the flat-earth society commend your quick-thinking, and we have planned for exactly this scenario.  Being the retro folks that we are, our links will be point-to-point masers.


Naturally, due to the bandwidth and amount of error correction required, we will be running in the atmospheric window around 90GHz, and will have sufficient SNR to run 2 Gbps links.  Therefore, we will run 50 of them in parallel, adjacently spaced.


Taking our cues from the 100G world, we will advertise this scheme as "one wavelength". Since the operators will be told that there is only one wavelength,  the analysts will parrot this claim.


It can't lose.  Wanna invest?


Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:31:34 PM
re: Carrier Pwns NYC/Chicago Latency

What really strikes me about Spread Networks is the uniqueness of the proposition: There's this ONE span that needs more low-latency links, and that's all they're building for. I'm not sure there's another pair of cities in North America where it would be worth doing that.


NYC/Boston is a crowded span, I'm sure, but it's a shorter distance, and I wouldn't think you'd have options for a more direct route for fiber anyway -- plus, Boston isn't the financial trading hub that Chicago is.


Anyway, as a one-off business model, I found this really intriguing.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:31:34 PM
re: Carrier Pwns NYC/Chicago Latency

All right, all right, so the microwave thing won't work. At least not at this distance (or without the right size of mountains on either end).  I do like the single-wavelength idea, though.  Be sure and patent it!

Stevery 12/5/2012 | 4:31:33 PM
re: Carrier Pwns NYC/Chicago Latency

There's this ONE span that needs more low-latency links, and that's all they're building for.


That one span is currently a license to print money though.  For example:  Below is a link describing what happened in the flash crash last month.  Their solution?  Make stock bids/asks valid for 50ms, which is enough of a disadvantage to remove the ability to game the system based on your time-of-flight.






Flash Crash analysis

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