Virtual interconnection makes the world go around
The growth of globalisation and networking is challenging the IT and telecommunications market to provide flexible, up-to-date structures and solutions
WHAT IS BEHIND THIS DEVELOPMENT?
Until the mid 90s, telecommunications and data services in western Europe were hosted in specialised facilities, run almost exclusively by well-established and mostly state-owned telecommunications companies. When telecommunications markets deregulated, the number of companies on the market rose, and so did the demand for suitable locations to host and operate the network infrastructure that these companies needed. Many of the new companies on the market had no facilities of their own to fall back on, so they invested in new buildings or rented space from existing facilities.
This normally entailed using the transport capacity of the carrier that own the facility to link up to other telecommunications companies. This limited the extent to which network operators could be connected independently and therefore also the potential for true competition.
Towards the end of the 90s, the first "neutral" co-location centres appeared, doing away with restrictions of this nature. Interconnections could then be more centralised, and large numbers of carriers were concentrated at these so-called "core interconnection points". All in all, these centres were extremely cost-efficient - because it is easier and more cost-efficient to intermesh networks with each other.
These co-location centres expanded their capacity massively to match what they thought the future would bring. However, ever since the internet bubble burst at the turn of the millennium, there has been a significant surplus in space for this kind of service throughout western Europe, with the notable exception of London. Moreover, this space cannot even begin to meet today s requirements in terms of flexibility, modularity and electricity supply.
But how then did ancotel manage to develop into such a major force in a market that has been so hampered by excess capacity and bankruptcy? With almost 70 employees, ancotel now links up over 300 telecommunications companies in its meet-me rooms and has grown to be the "core interconnection point" for continental Europe with its Kleyer 90® location in Frankfurt, Germany.
One reason why ancotel stands out from its competitors is its flexibility and clear customer orientation. In addition the company provides intelligent solutions tailored to its customers needs.
Whilst ancotel initially restricted its value creation to renting out space for network infrastructure technology, it has expanded its business with innovative and progressive services during the past years. Key drivers behind this development were - and still are - the analysis of the technology ancotel s clients use and the applications they run on it. ancotel provides in-depth consultation, either at its Kleyer 90® location or at client s offices.
SERVICES ANCOTEL PROVIDES FOR CARRIERS
So what services for carriers can ancotel provide for carriers in a co-location centre without competing with other carriers in the same centre? The company s goal is always to enable as many customers as possible to benefit from the new services.
Apart from renting out space for carriers network infrastructure technology, ancotel s main focus is linking up carriers. The company currently manages around 17,000 interconnections in specially constructed meet-me rooms. To start with, these interconnections only used copper and fibre-optic cables that were connected in physical meetme rooms. However, more and more carriers are now opting for quicker, more flexible interconnections in our virtual meet-me rooms (vmmr.®).
Analyses of the client systems and the structure of their interconnections have shown that carrier systems in a co-location centre are for the most part fairly standard in terms of their function and the technology used.
They generally build up hosted aggregation points for data and voice traffic based on SDH or Ethernet technology, with the transport lines being interconnected. For the carrier, this has meant that the necessary network infrastructure technology had to be installed and put into operation by a trained technician, whether the technology had been bought or leased.
If you multiply this by the number of new clients at ancotel s Frankfurt location, i.e. around six a month, it would mean a huge investment from the carrier, in both network infrastructure technology and manpower. In the past, the prospect of such an investment sometimes delayed or even prevented carriers from building up their own location at a co-location centre. A virtual platform, like ancotel s virtual meet-me room or vmmr.®, based on the systems technology used by the carriers was the perfect solution to this investment issue. Similar platforms were developed at roughly the same time in the US. Virtual transport platforms such as "The Telx Brilliant Platform", run by ancotel s carrier hotel partner Telx in New York, and ancotel s own vmmr.® were launched independently and almost simultaneously.
This sort of virtual transport platform was first established as a virtual point of presence (PoP) for carriers and was mainly used to split up highcapacity lines to smaller sub-units, eg STM1 to 63 x E1. The industry was quick to recognise and take advantage of the efficiency and flexibility afforded by direct interconnections with this sort of capacity on one and the same network when operated by a neutral and trustworthy co-location centre such as ancotel.
The popularity of the virtual meet-me room has grown and in recent years its use has skyrocketed in conjunction with a flat-rate fee for porting. Since the vmmr.® was launched in March 2004, the number of participating carriers has grown to 120. These numbers look to continue increasing - and many existing customers are increasing their capacity. In the early days, vmmr.® was generally used with STM1 and STM4 interfaces to transfer and interconnect voice traffic, but this year there has been an above-average increase in the number of STM16, STM64 and gigabit Ethernet interfaces for data traffic.
WHAT MAKES THE VMMR.® CONCEPT SO SUCCESSFUL?
Financial pressure on carriers definitely played some role in the success of vmmr.®. They were forced to cut operating and investment costs because of increased competition - all areas of a carrier were put to the test, and new PoPs in co-location centres were only allowed if the business case looked promising. The necessary technology entailed huge expense and the operating effort involved meant that many a start-up would have been doomed to failure from the start if it were not for ancotel s virtual interconnections. They enabled carriers to evaluate the business potential of locating at ancotel without too much bother and meant they could expand at ancotel should their business require it.
There is no doubt that the success of vmmr.® is also down to ancotel s staff, whose focus on service gave a significant boost to clients faith in the concept s reliability. Staff are also able to talk to potential clients in our target markets in their own languages. The company also had the foresight to choose ECI Telecom s XDM series multi-service provisioning platform, which is both modular and scalable. The platform has one of the highest packing densities for interfaces on the market and one of the largest interconnection matrixes around. It is used by many large carriers and has a proven track record of reliability.
vmmr.® has also enjoyed such huge success because of the simple communication structures within the company and the speed with which interconnects can be activated - from the moment the order is received.
This has been aided by the fact that the fibre-optic cables for supplying SDH capacities are the only components which have to be manually connected, whilst internal interconnects on a virtual container (VC) level can be switched on in just a few minutes via ancotel s network management system - all at the click of a mouse.
This means that any adjustment to or migration of network capacity that a carrier needs can be performed quickly and easily - and in the event of a fault in the carrier network, an alternative route can be found fast. Apart from these applications, there is an increasing need to temporarily map entire network node structures because it is not uncommon for network components to be delayed with some manufacturers. Once the necessary network interfaces for the vmmr.® are in stock at ancotel, the network node can be emulated via the vmmr.® and with this help the carrier can still implement important connections within the arranged timeframe without having its own network node build up.
THE NEXT STEP FOR THE VIRTUAL INTERCONNECTION CONCEPT?
Due to demand for the vmmr.® interconnection concept elsewhere in the world, ancotel has opened new platforms in London and Hong Kong to complement its Frankfurt site.
ancotel does not network the vmmr.® locations itself - this is down to a transit carrier, which preserves ancotel s carrier neutrality and gives carriers connected to vmmr.® a choice of potential service providers. It is an important step towards complete network neutrality.
The vmmr.® platform will be developed for voice over IP in future. The groundwork has already been done, and ancotel will soon be able to offer its customers a new service based on the Nextone Intelliconnect platform.
This scalable platform will also be used to give various carriers the chance to use SIP/H.323 VoIP interconnections without having to invest in their own system, and ancotel preserves its neutrality because it does not trade minutes on this platform.
We are planning lots of new products for the future. Details will be available soon in the ancotel goodnews online newsletter, which is distributed widely within the carrier community.
ancotel GmbH Telehaus
ancotel GmbH is a leading provider of innovative services for carrier-neutral co-location, telehousing and interconnection. ancotel has built up Europe s largest and most important telecommunications hub for international carriers and providers: a centralised, high-performance marketplace for integrated broadband and communications services, plus a network with more than 300 phone and internet service providers who can be reached by ancotel s physical or virtual interconnection rooms. Ancotel is an independent, ownermanaged company based in Frankfurt. It employs almost 70 people. The company opened ancotel Hong Kong and ancotel UK in 2006.
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