Most of what we talk about on the New IP is software-related, since that is where network intelligence and control is moving. To the extent we discuss hardware, it's typically of the white box variety, or some adaptation of commercial, off-the-shelf gear, since that is what fits best into more efficient, cost-effective networks.
But there is one physical reality of the New IP that shouldn't be given short shrift: the fiber over which all this traffic -- even that which uses wireless access -- will ultimately ride.
Having spent much of this week in beautiful if not-so-sunny Miami Beach -- I know, poor me -- speaking to the executives at Metro Connect, I can safely say that fiber network construction is alive and well, especially at the edge of the network and in the mobile backhaul space.
What's interesting is that the companies deeply involved in these networks aren't incumbent providers, in telecom or cable. They are competitive providers, many of them either survivors of the telecom bubble or executives of companies that failed who learned from that experience.
The diversity of business plans is dramatic. For example,
Spread Networks is building its business on a single fiber route, between Chicago and New York, while ZenFi is building dense dark fiber under New York City's streets, and Tower Cloud Inc. , is building long-haul fiber in rural areas, to connect cell towers and much more.
Data center interconnections are increasingly the lifeblood of the edge fiber cloud but even here there are business models galore. EdgeConneX Inc. is building a deep edge network strategy, using cable companies as the anchor tenant, while Allied Fiber LLC is building fiber routes with man interconnection points and making its real revenue with neutral colocation spots strategically placed.
The need for data center interconnection at massive volume and the distribution of content, data and intelligence to the edge of the network that is driving all this fiber deployment and will continue to do so for the near future. What once were thought of as future-proofed fiber networks either aren't available where they are needed or aren't available in the quantity and capacity needed today. As one speaker noted in Miami, there are web-scale companies wanting 20 ducts between their data centers.
This fiber-happy community isn't a well-kept secret from investors -- bankers and investors were abundant in Miami at the Eden Roc hotel where the conference was hosted. And like other segments of telecom, this area is chock-full of merger and acquisition activity. Yet even as some players consolidate, others pop up. As event chair and veteran telecom lawyer Andrew Lipman noted, this year's conference was the biggest ever with more than 500 attendees.
And there still seems to be room for innovation, even at the New IP network's most basic physical layer.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading