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October 3, 2016

Seeding the Clouds: Advancing DCI Technology from Hyperscale to Enterprise and Back

JayBy Jay Gill

Principal Manager, Cloud & SDN Marketing

With the launch of the Cloud Xpress 2, the second generation of Infinera’s market-leading Cloud Xpress Family of data center interconnect (DCI) products, we like to say we’ve raised the bar. The Cloud Xpress 2 is built with our most advanced optical technology, the Infinite Capacity Engine, and delivers incredible performance in a small package – 1.2 terabits per second (Tb/s) in one rack unit (1RU) – that also offers simplicity, efficiency and security. It’s a great fit for the largest DCI operators, the hyperscale cloud and internet content providers, whom we often refer to as ICPs.


But what about the rest of the DCI market? How does this new product apply to the much larger community of data center operators, who don’t yet need dense 100 gigabit Ethernet (GbE) data center interconnects over multi-terabit wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) links?

The first answer to that question is the simplest: the Cloud Xpress 2 is the latest extension of the Cloud Xpress Family, and there are several other Cloud Xpress platforms that fit varying needs and requirements.

Only need 100 or 200 gigabits per second (Gb/s) WDM now, but still want to plan for future growth? Then choose one of the four Cloud Xpress models that scale simply from 100 Gb/s to 500 Gb/s using Infinera’s Instant Bandwidth technology, with software activation of new capacity and no need for new hardware or reconfiguration. Need to optimize for dense 10 GbE interconnects, or a mix of 10 and 40 GbE? We’ve got a choice of models to match your needs, not just a single “one-size-fits-all” product that really doesn’t serve any customer well. The Cloud Xpress Family offers unmatched choice and flexibility among compact DCI platforms.

The second answer to the question of how the Cloud Xpress 2 applies to the rest of the market is to look at what has happened with Cloud Xpress in the past. History shows that every innovation built into the Cloud Xpress ends up benefiting a wide range of DCI customers, sometimes in ways they (and we) didn’t even anticipate.

At the start, the original Cloud Xpress arose as a new application of technologies developed for a different requirement in long-haul transport, specifically, Infinera’s unique photonic integrated circuits (PICs) and FlexCoherent® digital signal processing (DSP) electronics. The innovation of the Cloud Xpress was putting that powerful technology into a streamlined, compact package that was extremely simple to deploy and manage, and optimized for DCI in hyperscale ICP networks.

We found out that the extreme simplicity and scalability of the Cloud Xpress was also a great fit for a very different type of customer: an educational software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider named Blackboard. In fact, Blackboard turned out to be the first announced Cloud Xpress customer. So an innovation for hyperscale ICPs led directly to benefits for a smaller-scale SaaS provider.

Innovations also travel the other way. Blackboard didn’t need the full 500 Gb/s of capacity of the Cloud Xpress right away, so we enabled them to deploy the platform with less than 500 Gb/s enabled and turn up more capacity when they need it with our Instant Bandwidth feature. Many other Cloud Xpress customers that aren’t hyperscale ICPs use Instant Bandwidth for the same reason. Now, as we introduce the Cloud Xpress 2, we’re starting to see ICPs planning to use Instant Bandwidth in selected locations, deploying less than the full 1.2 Tb/s and leaving room to grow capacity through software. (Of course, in many other locations, they will immediately deploy not just one but multiple Cloud Xpress 2 platforms because demand is already up to multiple terabits per link.) So innovations that appear at first to fit only non-ICP customers can in fact become useful to ICPs as well.

There are other examples of such technology transfers. ICPs drove us to build security into the Cloud Xpress, with support for in-flight data encryption, especially for public cloud and private cloud infrastructures that must meet the stringent security demands of enterprise customers. We now see strong interest in this built-in encryption support from those same enterprise customers in many vertical markets as they evolve their own DCI infrastructures toward a hybrid cloud future.

So what ICP-driven features will make their way to the enterprise next? Could it be zero-touch provisioning, which enables ICPs to more simply install new Cloud Xpress systems and get them up and running fast? Or could it be streaming telemetry, which changes the model of network operations from a selective “pull” of a few management parameters toward a comprehensive “push” of all available network data to support data center automation and optimization?

Only time will tell. But if the past is any guide to the future, we should expect to see all of the latest innovations in the Cloud Xpress 2 finding their way from ICP networks into a much wider range of DCI environments, and probably sooner than we might imagine.

You can learn more about Cloud Xpress 2 and the diversity of DCI from Stu Elby, SVP of Infinera’s Data Center Business Group, at a special webinar, “Data Center Interconnect for a Diverse Market.” Click here to watch the webcast replay!

You can also watch the webcast that launched the Cloud Xpress 2! Learn about the trends driving massive bandwidth consumption between data centers and the latest solution for data center interconnect with Dave Welch, Infinera Co-Founder and President, Sterling Perrin, Senior Analyst at Heavy Reading, Michael Capuano, Infinera VP of Global Marketing and Stu Elby. Click here to view a replay of the webcast, “Radical Innovation for the Cloud.”

For more information on Infinera’s Cloud Xpress, please contact us.
Related links:
• Web page: Cloud Xpress Family
• Video: Cloud Xpress 2 intro video

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