Software-defined Console connectivity

Software-defined Console connectivity

08 December 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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In three years since it acquired the platform, PCCW Global has turned Console Connect into the brand for its software-defined services arm for data centres. Alan Burkitt-Gray talks to innovation VP Michael Glynn

Africa is seeing a surge in the number of data centres, says a new report from PCCW Global. And that’s good news for the international carrier, and its Console Connect brand that it uses for software-defined services.

“We’re finding the need for software-defined interconnection is coming from Africa,” says Michael Glynn (pictured), vice president of digital automated innovation at the company. “Not many people were doing bandwidth on demand previously – on routes such as Johannesburg to London where people want to increase bandwidth for a day.” But “a lot of enterprise customers are trying to get to that cloud”, he notes.

Hong Kong-based PCCW Global took on the Console Connect brand in late 2017 along with the platform and the technology team, when the old Console Connect’s network assets and customer contracts were put under separate ownership under the name IX Reach. Marc Halbfinger, CEO of PCCW Global, explained the deal at that year’s Capacity Asia conference: “We have built our network globally, which has over 600,000km of fibre wrapped around the globe, but how do we get closer to the edge,” he said.

Halbfinger told Capacity in an interview at the time: “The brand we feel is valuable. We acquired most the people and they have associated themselves with the brand. The development skillsets we acquired are quite deep, so we’re quite pleased.”

Before the deal, the old Console Connect called itself “the cloud connection company”. It had a sophisticated, highly-automated connectivity platform that provided enterprises direct access to an ecosystem of business-critical cloud infrastructure providers.

And that’s what Glynn is using today. He joined PCCW Global in March 2019, to lead the team delivering automated connectivity through the Console Connect platform, driving real partnerships into the ecosystem of data centres, software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers, cloud and carriers connected by PCCW Global’s network.

Based in Australia, he has worked for number telecoms players. Most notably, he was a founding member of Megaport, Superloop and ActivePort, in addition to holding senior sales roles with the likes of Pacnet, Vocus and Pipe Networks.

Now, he says, the brand will become bigger as PCCW Global continues its strategy. “As we automate key products for PCCW Global we put them under this [Console Connect] brand. We will continue to grow the platform.”

It’s already prominent in Africa and Europe, and is expanding in the US. It “needs to be much bigger”, he smiles. “Everyone is moving traffic to London, and Frankfurt is a hotspot for us.”

The new report, produced by consultancy firm Balancing Act for PCCW Global, identifies countries in Africa “with potential to develop carrier-neutral data centres and cloud services”.

It notes: “The more operators there are in a country, the greater the need for interconnection. … This point is most vividly illustrated by the position of South Africa and Nigeria but at a smaller level is also seen in Ghana and Tanzania.”

PCCW Global notes in the report that that “there are 10 sub-Saharan African countries with carrier-neutral data centres – Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia”. Another six have carrier-neutral data centres coming onstream: Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

“Overall, significant investments are being made in new facilities,” says PCCW Global. “About a quarter of sub-Saharan African countries have an existing or planned carrier-neutral data centre.”

It’s not just Africa, though, says Glynn. “We’ve added more than 120 data centres in Europe – it’s massive.” He lists France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. This is an addition “to a core network of 320 data centres in 44 countries, one of the largest software-defined platforms.”

The service covers “pretty much every country in Europe now”, says Glynn. “Customers are demanding data centres to reach cloud and SaaS.” PCCW Global has been working with internet exchanges with application programming interface (API) or B2B connections, and with a lot of network-as-a-service (NaaS) and SaaS providers. “We’re enriching our system globally,” he notes.

“Especially with the expansion in Europe we’ve enabled the Console Connect platform. There are not many carriers doing what we’re doing.” There is a “large drive from Dubai and Doha to get to Europe and to Hong Kong and Singapore”.

The key to PCCW Global’s success, he says, is that “a lot of carriers talk about software-defined, but not many carriers have it in place”. He and colleagues are “seeing a large intake of new customers for Console Connect. We have customers that can purchase by API. We’ve got large capacity and we have subsea cables through Asia.”