Massive Bandwidth For Business Where to find extraordinary data connections for big data applications.
By: John Shepler
Most businesses do just fine with common bandwidth offerings from telco, cable and fiber service providers. Sometimes, though, your application just won’t squeeze through the pipe. You need more than typical WAN bandwidth. You need massive bandwidth.
How Massive Are We Talking?
Over the last few decades, mirroring the growth of the Internet, WAN bandwidth needs have multiplied from a paltry T1 level of 1.5 Mbps up to 10 or 20 Mbps for the smaller businesses, at least 100 Mbps for companies with many employees, to a now commonly expected Gigabit per second.
Those bandwidths levels are easily accommodated by most service providers. Copper twisted pair can bring in 20 Mbps or so. Cable broadband is good for at least 100 Mbps and pushing 1 Gbps in many areas. Fiber optic service easily delivers 1 or 2 Gbps and can readily scale to 10 Gbps. Where you might find yourself limited is in rural or underserved locations where your choice is still T1 lines, LTE or 5G wireless, or synchronous satellite broadband.
Massive bandwidth starts at 10 Gbps and goes up from there. Can you reasonably take advantage of 100 Gbps up and down? OK. How about 400 Gbps, 800 Gbps or even a full Terabit per second? Those are carrier level services, but not out of the realm of possibility for the most data or streaming intensive businesses.
Who On Earth Needs THAT Much Bandwidth?
What were absurd levels of bandwidth are now aspirational and may become common sooner than you think. One big driver is the move of everything digital to the cloud. When your data center was just down the hall, nobody worried about bandwidth. You can string as much fiber as you want above the ceiling tiles. Once you pay for installation, usage is pretty much free.
Not so much anymore. When the connection leaves your building you lose control. You’re not going to string any cable across town, much less across several states. For that you need to hand off your traffic to a carrier or service provider. This third party will then lease you the amount of bandwidth you need, or at least can afford, for a monthly fee. The carrier, not you, takes care of all maintenance and reliability between locations.
Some companies get a surprise when they realize that the 30 Mbps Internet connection that was more than adequate when the data center was on premises is now painfully slow when all the applications are in the cloud. One solution is to install a high speed direct line to the cloud service provider and keep the old Internet connection as-is. That solves the bandwidth problem and avoids business critical apps having to deal with the vagaries of Internet performance.
Another application that just won’t play on standard connectivity is content distribution. If you are sending massive amounts of content consistently, you may need to avoid the standard Internet and move over to a purpose built privately run network called a content delivery network. These are designed to handle continuously high levels of video or data without congestion.
Sometimes you only need massive data for a brief time. Say you have Terabytes of disk drives full to the brim and you want to send that to the cloud for safe keeping or to a customer who needs those design or simulation models on their system. Shoving it through a normal connection will take forever. Is there a better option?
Colocation and Cloud Data Centers
If there is one place that you’ll find massive bandwidth already installed and running, it is in cloud and colo centers. Both are massive facilities with nearly unlimited servers, disk drives and bandwidth connections from multiple carriers. The difference between cloud and colo is that cloud centers provide all of the equipment and service needed. A colo or colocation facility lets you bring in your own equipment and set up your own data center in their racks and cages. It’s like what you would have at home, but in a shared building with plenty of space, backup power, HVAC, security and even round the clock staffing.
Some colos will provide a direct fiber hookup between your company and any others located in the same facility. if you need to connect outside, you won’t have to worry about finding a service provider or paying hefty fees to bring in service from afar. They are already inside and serving other customers. You just get a hookup at whatever bandwidth you need.
More Exotic Massive Bandwidth Options
There really is no limit to how much bandwidth you can utilize these days, other than your budget. If you can afford it, consider these options:
Most fibers are now lit with DWDM or dense wavelength division multiplexing. That means multiple lasers feeding the same fiber, but on different frequencies or wavelengths. A wavelength can handle perhaps 10 Gbps and each fiber strand can handle perhaps 100 wavelengths. Combine them all and the total bandwidth is mind boggling.
Many carriers are now leasing entire wavelengths for your use. It’s like a fiber within a fiber. Some will combine multiple wavelengths to create 100 Gbps and higher bandwidths for you, or you can lease the wavelengths and multiplex them yourself.
The ultimate in bandwidth and control is had by leasing one or more dark fiber strands. Dark means that the fiber is in the cable but totally unused at present. You add the laser termination and multiplexing equipment at each end and “light” the fiber.
Dark fiber is as close to having your own in-house cabling as you can get outdoors. There is nobody else’s traffic to contend with. You decide how much capacity to press into service. Run out of bandwidth? Just upgrade your terminal equipment. Same fiber, more Gbps. You don’t have total control. The carrier still owns and maintains the fiber physical plant, including cabling and repeaters. The rest is up to you.
Are you feeling unduly restricted when it comes to bandwidth to efficiently run your business and take advantage of new opportunities? If so, look into higher bandwidth fiber optic services now. You may find them more affordable than you think.
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