Q&A: Frank Orlowski, DE-CIX – Upgrading the Frankfurt hub

Capacity Europe day 3 – Germany’s DE-CIX has upgraded its Apollon internet exchange platform in Frankfurt, in partnership with Alcatel-Lucent. Capacity speaks to Frank Orlowski, CMO at DE-CIX, to find out the finer details of the project and the impact he expects it to have.

What does the upgrade entail?

We have two different categories of switches in Frankfurt. We have the edge switches which are customer facing, and the core nodes. What is happening is that we are getting more and more customer connections and we have outgrown pretty much all of the hardware that you can actually buy out there. We have over 1,000 customer-facing ports operational and we are simply running out of ports.

That is why we introduced Apollon, but we are outgrowing even those super-large edge chassis, so what we are doing is combining these to create virtual switches. Essentially what we have now is one large switching cluster in each data centre, instead of multiple machines in each data centre, and that is important for keeping the traffic local on those switches.

For our customers it’s extremely importantly because it allows them to grow on the machine they are already connected to, and scale the capacity that they have with DE-CIX.

Did you come across any difficulties?

When we first started with Apollon we talked to all of the different hardware vendors out there, but the problem was there are simply no hardware vendors left in the market that can handle that much traffic, and that many ports, on a single machine. So we basically went out and bought the biggest PoP you could buy.

We are always a front-runner when it comes to density and traffic and there are a number of big carriers that use the same type of infrastructure as us. The challenge that we have is that 100% of our traffic for DE-CIX Frankfurt is in Frankfurt and nowhere else. So it is one big hub, rather than a nice and distributed network.

Will you look to expand this type of operation to your operations in Hamburg and Munich?

We do not yet have the demand for these huge upgrades in Hamburg and Munich, but we are putting in new Alcatel-Lucent hardware as we speak. We also have exchanges in Dubai and New York, which soon will be based on the DE-CIX Apollon platform with Alcatel-Lucent equipment.

We essentially have two set-ups; the super-high-density and high-traffic set-up in Frankfurt that can handle multiple Terabytes of traffic, and then for anything smaller than – let’s say, 500G – we have a different set-up, like the one we are using in New York.

It is always a challenge to come up with something that is rock solid and cost efficient, but we have just made an announcement that we are massively reducing our pricing. It is not like 15 years ago, where you would go and buy something, build something and people would just pay for it. It is becoming a much more competitive market, even in our niche.

What kind of competition do you expect as a result of the upgrade?

There is no-one close to us on our home turf, like the other big European exchanges. So while on the one hand we are focussed on adding new services in Frankfurt and giving customers more choice of what type of interconnection they can buy from us, in other markets like Dubai and New York it is more about growing the customer ecosystem surrounding those exchanges. But I can reveal that we will not be stopping in Dubai and New York; there will be one or two additional exchanges in 2015.

Why is DE-CIX attending Capacity Europe 2014?

Having stopped producing our own CNX event in Frankfurt – which was a great event especially for our clientele – Capacity Europe is definitely the most important European event for us. It is a bit like the European version of ITW; we meet a lot of customers and prospects that are from regions where you don’t travel to frequently. There is a lot of cost-saving involved when you go to any Capacity conference because it is much easier than travelling to a specific market and trying to meet prospects and customers there.

DE-CIX also celebrates its 20th anniversary next year and for 15 of those 20 years, we have been heavily focussed on serving customers in our German locations only. That picture has really evolved over the last five years and in Frankfurt alone we now serve customers in 60 different countries. This proves us as a real hub for the global internet, and we will do exactly the same for the other markets that we are in. We have a massive network in New York, with approximately 110 different access nodes across both New York and New Jersey, and we don’t plan to stop there.

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