Big Interview

Geoff Bennett, Infinera Q&A: Xpress delivery

Infinera launched its Cloud Xpress portfolio last month, in a bid to better enable network operators to deliver cloud-based services worldwide. Here, Geoff Bennett – director of solutions and technology at Infinera – speaks exclusively to Capacity about the thought process behind the launch.

Capacity: What pre-empted the launch of Infinera Cloud Xpress?

Geoff Bennett: As a long-haul trend, data centres are very often built outside of major cities and huge links are needed to bring the capacity back to the users.

There is now an equivalent short-distant trend which was noted by someone from Facebook at the OFC show in San Francisco. He said that when a relatively small 1Kb of information is sent to a Facebook data centre, it gets multiplied up by a factor of 930 because of the way that they organise their protocols. This means 1Kb is now 1Mb of data.

Does that mean cloud is inefficient? It seems very wasteful of bandwidth and this information is doing a lot of bouncing around. But that doesn’t seem to be the case when you come to measure cloud from a cost point of view to the end customer. [Research firm] McKinsey & Co have produced a statistic that suggests its costs a third as much to rent capacity in the cloud as it does to own that capacity.

The great thing about all of the virtual functions that you have in these cloud architectures now, is that you can buy them in as much or as little as you need. If you buy a server and a year from now your needs increase by a factor of 10, what do you do? Do you buy the 10-times bigger server now, knowing that you’ll need it in a year’s time, but also knowing that in the next few months it’s going to be massively under-utilised and is going to cost you. Or vice versa?

In the cloud you don’t have to do that; you can just buy chunks. It can be as much or as little as you like, and it can be storage or compute power or any type of the many functions that are migrating into the cloud these days.

So there is a hierarchy of different distances. You get the long-haul, you’ve got metro, and you’ve got data centre interconnects that are building-to-building, and all these things are fundamental to making the cloud work. And in order to make these run smoothly, we realised that they essentially need a smaller version of the Infinera DTN-X.

C: Why does the industry need this now?

GB: We think that the product we are launching is the right product at the right time for this data centre interconnect market.

We have listened to customers in our target market, meaning we have put features into the product that will make it much more attractive for them, and that’s why we think this is an optimised data centre solution. We think it is the right time to deliver it and we think it is going to solve some really significant problems for our customers.

We love using our PIC (photonic integrated circuit) technology because we think it is going to give us a technical advantage in this particular area.

This creation is like a slice of our DTN-X, but as a standalone product. It is small, it has an easy entry point for the data centre guys, but it also has all the same ease of use, reliability and low power consumption. All of the good things about DTN-X have been transferred across.

It is a single PIC in its own chassis, in its own form factor. You have 500G that comes out of the box and goes to the next building, and you have 500G at the front which is the connection into the client interfaces. That is a mix of 10Gb, 40Gb and 100Gb Ethernet-type clients.

And we also have instant bandwidth where you plug in 500G, but you only pay us for the bits you use. And that is how cloud works. You only pay for as much of the cloud capacity as you’re actually using.

C: What are the main benefits of using the Infinera Cloud Xpress for the metro cloud?

GB: There are three main benefits of using the Infinera Cloud Xpress. First, is its hyperscale density. It’s just 2RU high and it’s got a fraction of the capacity of the DTN-X, but you can stack several of them and feed them all into one pair of fibres. There is a fibre capacity limitation of about 10Tb, but it’s a very scalable box.

Secondly, it has very low power consumption. It occupies a quarter of the space, and the power consumption is about half (per Gbps) that of the leading competitor.

All of these things come together for simplicity and ease of use. With its instant bandwidth capabilities, you put the technology in and you probably won’t have to touch it again for six months to a year, until you add another one.

It also gives you the ability to login, using your preferred approach. The data centre guys like command-line interface, our existing telco customers prefer network management system logon, and in the future, maybe both of them will be looking towards SDN APIs.

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