While most businesses today are happy to take advantage of cloud computing and the benefits it brings to enterprise software and networking, few organizations that rely on it spend much time thinking about the backbone of the cloud and what supports it. (Would you ever invest in a new machine if you didn’t really understand how it’s going to be powered? Probably not, but millions of people do this every day when they use the cloud).
Networks today must be able to scale and adjust in real time to growing traffic demands. As the world turns to the cloud and businesses engage in Web-scale networking, we need to start to wonder how (or if!) we’re going to be able to satisfy business’ and consumers’ increasing needs for data.
According to Ciena’s Anthony McLachlan writing for Telecom Asia, until we can take advantage of new technological developments, our emphasis will have to be on maximizing the capabilities of the technology we have today, and this will involve maximizing the use of smart networks that can process and prioritize data, reacting and adapting to changing requirements as bandwidth demands evolve.
“At the heart of achieving this is real-time data, which feeds into network algorithms to help providers gain greater visibility and programmability to cope with exploding bandwidth needs,” wrote McLachlan.
Whereas most traffic was once carried by satellite, today, there is a rising reliance on submarine cables that carry data around the world. Smart networks will be necessary to manage these cables, just as they do with satellite data traffic. While submarine cables are being laid down at unprecedented rates – the completion of the new Asia-Pacific Gateway is likely to be followed by many other new and ambitious projects, some of them by private companies with strong data needs – there still isn’t enough to flawlessly cope with demand, particularly between high-traffic parts of the world.
“Just a few decades ago, approximately half of all internet-related data was being carried by satellite network; but now, upwards of 99 percent of all inter-continental traffic is sent over submarine cable networks,” wrote McLachlan. “The reason for this is simply a need for speed. Satellite networks simply cannot scale to the information-carrying capacity and associated cost points. Therefore, today they primarily serve remote regions of the world that are not currently hooked up to the global submarine network, such as small islands in the Pacific Ocean.”
Going forward, traffic management technologies will help match what seems like infinite needs for data to very finite cable resources. Smart traffic management, according to McLachlan, can help double existing capacity.
“Through research and innovation, we are able to get more out of existing cables, which when combined with new investment projects helps operators prepare for future subsea traffic growth,” he wrote. “For example, next-generation optical chipsets will deliver an improved combination of scale, automation, capacity, and intelligence, all of which are the foundations for the creation of self-driving networks.”
Edited by Alicia Young