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The Symbiotic Relationship Between the Cloud and Optical Fiber

By John McKoy, Strategic Account Manager - FiberLight, LLC

3/13/2018

Recently, I had the honor of moderating a panel titled, “The Cloud Revolution: From Fiber to Cyber” for Bisnow’s DICE Southeast conference in Atlanta. During our conversation, leadership from Colo Atl, Equinix, Green House Data, INAP, and Vericon Resources all shared their insights on how fiber infrastructure and data centers are evolving to meet the demands of the cloud. Each company representative had a unique perspective to share with the audience, and all agreed that robust fiber is becoming increasingly critical as data loads sent to the cloud continue to place pressure on network capacity.

When it comes to the Atlanta market, Tim Kiser, owner of Colo Atl, is a proven veteran. He remarked that 80 percent of all data traffic flows through the city because of its dense fiber network. He even leveraged a local landmark as an analogy for the connection between fiber and the cloud – as companies look to Atlanta area data centers for cloud solutions, the high bandwidth infrastructure in the region allows them to bypass congested paths, like our own I-85, as if they’re driving around in George Jetson’s car!

Kevin Thames, Director of Partner Alliances Sales for America East from Equinix, reflected on how railroads helped fiber networks — especially those in Atlanta — become the pipelines they are today. However, he also noted there’s still a gap when it comes to rural connectivity, and companies located in those areas expect fiber network service providers to expand to meet their bandwidth demands.

According to John Solensky, INAP’s Director of Solutions Engineering for the East, connected devices have forced most companies to deploy some sort of cloud solutions. And the low latency offered by fiber connectivity is vital to realizing the benefits of cloud investments.

When asked about the role colocation facilities play in the cloud environment, Mark Fuqua, Senior VP of Sales from Green House Data, pointed to the trend of cloud providers and data centers working together to put direct connectivity to the cloud, which offers lower latency with a more predictable cost model. He also stressed the important role virtual ecosystems and online marketplaces will play in leveraging the cloud, since these tools can be used by the enterprise as a means to maximize cloud efficiency.

From the end-user standpoint, Tony Pichetto, Vericon Resources’ Director of Operations and Technology, noted that cloud technologies are necessary for some of the most basic functions of organizational management and oversight, especially when it comes to HR and human capital systems. In his experience, Tony has observed that once a company deploys a cloud solution for these purposes, they’re going to be in the cloud game for the long haul.

When I asked the panel what they believed would be the next technology forcing revolution in the cloud space, nearly everyone agreed on the Internet of Things. Kevin even remarked that he’s seeing customers purchase multiple 100-Gig circuits between locations today to accommodate data traffic they don’t even have yet. From that perspective, it seems that future-minded organizations are putting the infrastructure in place now in order to edge out their competition.

For me, the main takeaway from our discussion was the fact that the cloud doesn’t exist without fiber, and Atlanta’s fiber networks in particular are going to play an important role in how the cloud evolves. In the near future, connected devices and IoT will also require organizations to more thoughtfully evaluate where and how they will store and analyze data, and then how they can turn that data into valuable, actionable insights they can leverage for business value. Not everyone can invest in multiple 100G circuits for data that doesn’t even exist yet, but you also can’t put off planning for the cloud needs of the future for too long!

In my role as a Strategic Account Manager for FiberLight, I have conversations with my clients and partners every day on network resiliency and scalability, and I have seen first-hand how the features offered by robust fiber networks — namely, the flexibility to grow just as quickly as data traffic to and from the cloud — can help a company fortify itself today for whatever applications it deploys in the future. And FiberLight, because we are actively installing new routes featuring physical diversity and will take on custom network builds, we can help enterprise and data center engineers sleep soundly knowing their networks are truly ready for the cloud revolution!