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How subsea cable innovation is meeting surging network bandwidth demand

26 Sep 16

The ongoing and massive surge in global data traffic is a well-documented trend, and it’s feeding a boom in new subsea cable construction: TeleGeography estimates that as many as 33 new systems could be launched by 2018. At Equinix, we’ve already publicly announced our involvement in 12 subsea systems, and we expect that number to grow.

The increasing importance of subsea cable systems is being accelerated by new and evolving deployment models that expand their efficiency and reach. At Equinix, we’re debuting a revolutionary model that brings the cable landing station (CLS) inside the data center. This “data center model” comes with significant cost and connectivity advantages, including the ability to directly connect subsea system users to whatever markets and ecosystems they’re trying to reach. We take a look at it below:

Traditional Cable Landing Station v. the Data Center Model

Cable landing stations are typically located at the beach, where they house critical system components, including power feed equipment (PFE), the element management system (EMS) – which monitors the station equipment – and the submarine line terminal equipment (SLTE). The job of the SLTE is to convert incoming optical signals of different wavelengths into a single optical signal that can be sent over the cable, and then split it back into individual signals when it reaches the other end. The data then moves on its way to networks, content providers and clouds.

Traditionally, subsea cable system operators have had to build and manage the cable landing station (CLS), and then the CLS needed to be connected to existing networks and interconnection hubs. This is called backhaul, and it can be costly and inefficient. But under our new model, Equinix is building and operating the CLS, and the subsea cable lands directly inside one of our network-and cloud-dense International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers. There is no backhaul.

We’re debuting this “data center model” as part of the Monet Submarine Cable project connecting Florida and Brazil. Under this architecture, the CLS becomes part of our MI3 data center in our Miami metro via high speed conduit. This innovative submarine cable infrastructure design has major advantages:

For the cable owners, the deployment will eliminate a separate cable landing station and simplify network design. That speeds up the deployment and reduces the need for dedicated cable station construction, saving millions of dollars and months of construction time.
For cable users, termination at a multi-tenant data center with rich interconnection opportunities greatly eases onward transport.

The Benefits of Being Direct

The benefits of the data center model are significant, and we anticipate it will be adopted by numerous subsea cable projects in the coming years. Cloud is driving the ongoing data traffic surge, including huge increases in video, social, ecommerce and other forms of consumer traffic. As a result, the largest cloud and content companies are the biggest investors in new subsea projects. Deployment models that provide these companies and their users with direct connectivity to global markets, partners and ecosystems right at the termination point will have superior appeal, and so will the companies that enable them.

Article by Ihab Tarazi, responsible for network operations of Equinix International Business Exchange.

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