Interconnect 2.0 – A New Approach for The Networks into The Future…

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The Internet Exchange Points do play a key role in the internet ecosystem as there are more than 400 Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in over 100 countries today worldwide. The largest of which do carry peak data rates of around 10 Tbps and connect hundreds of networks.

Today Internet Exchange Points are an integral part of the internet ecosystem and in many countries defined as critical infrastructure. They do provide interconnects for various Internet Service Providers (ISP) to exchange traffic locally resulting in faster internet. In the past when transit- and transport-network prices where high, peering provided a way to lower end user prices. Today with transport becoming a key part of 5G infrastructure, and worth mentioning that 5G is the first generation of Cloud Native Mobile Technology, with a service driven architecture including 1) RAN, 2) 5GC, 3) Hyper-scalers, and 4) Transport. This in turn means that these Internet Exchange Points are also undergoing a transition from standard legacy Ethernet and IP networks where technologies such as L2 VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks), and overlays such as VPLS (Virtual Private LAN Services) into more of data center architectures, with leaf-spine switching fabrics aka. CLOS architectures utilizing EVPN-VXLAN (Ethernet VPN-Virtual Extensible LAN) with automation and orchestration becoming key things. Part of this evolution also includes Data Center Interconnect (DCI) connectivity that can also be seen as backhaul and transport of traffic i.e. X-Haul, that would allow to add more value added services (VAS) like Edge Compute/MEC (Multiaccess Edge Compute), NHN (Neutral Host Networks) and PNI (Private Network Interconnects). With the previous things in mind, the Internet Exchange Points of yesterday are facing a challenge as the evolution drives them towards becoming more of interconnects, than peering points only. With that in mind the interconnects will become an integral part of infrastructure for 5G with the goal to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO), increase automation, provide software-defined infrastructure, and facilitate the offering of new VAS in addition to basic peering services.

Figure 1. Internet Exchange Points evolution into Interconnect 2.0.

Figure 1. Internet Exchange Points evolution into Interconnect 2.0.

The Era of Interconnect 2.0 is Here

We are entering into a new era of Interconnect 2.0 providing VAS where technological developments such as 5G and Edge Compute will enable Internet Exchange Points, as well as governments, enterprises, and consumers to coordinate their activities more. This in turn will lead to faster coordination, and more efficient use of various resources.

The critical component of the new Interconnect 2.0 will become the universal availability of flexible and fast, high-reliable, low-latency networks providing transport for a myriad of applications, which in turn are the foundation to enabe a complex array of communications, decisions, transactions, and processes to be completed quickly and in many cases automatically without human intervention, where ML (Machine Learning), and AI (Artificial Intelligence) do come into play, and with 5G there will be requirements for such interconnects to be able to provide automated network slices for 5G traffic with various stringent SLA (Service Level Agreements). The network, or in other words, the interconnect becomes key.

Historically, telecom and Internet Exchange Point networks have been created using dedicated hardware and software (NOS) to achieve a specific function or serve a specific use case. This has ensured that these networks are reliable and somewhat secure but has also stymied innovation – from not only service providers but also vendors of equipment used in such. This new era of Interconnect 2.0 will require more from the network than ever before – applications require the network to be flexible, dynamic, accessible and to support a range of technical and commercial options and operations. These networks must be able to impart actionable insights and be flexible as well as scalable for speed, bandwidth, latency, security, business model changes and countless other variables that could rapidly change to meet the needs of applications and users using such. The telco cloud which is becoming the foundation for the Cloud Native 5G services will be the enabler of the future of the Interconnect 2.0.

Interconnect 2.0 Diagram

Innovation at Interconnect 2.0: Disaggregation, SDN and network automation

Disaggregation, software-defined networking (SDN), and network automation are things that has already been applied and deployed in the telco world for 4G/5G rollouts as data centric networks. These will become very viable within the Internet Exchange Points networks that will evolve into becoming the Interconnect 2.0’s. As Internet Exchange Point networks are typically more localized than telco networks and do not need to cope with legacy infrastructure and services, they will be ideal places to introduce new networking concepts.

Disaggregation and openness speed innovation. Disaggregation, when applied to the Interconnect 2.0 and transport infrastructure do provide horizontal scalability allowing for unexpected growth, which can easily be handled without the need for pre-planning of large chassis-based system capacity or forklift upgrades.

In disaggregated networks innovation can be driven very efficiently, as network functions are decoupled from each other and can run in containers and evolve at their own speed. This enables interconnects to introduce additional steps in for instance interface capacity like 400GbE or 1 Terabit Ethernet, as well as single-chip switching capacities, and functionalities like programming protocol-independent packet processors [P4] seamlessly.

Realizing the Interconnect 2.0 vision

Moving to Interconnect 2.0 is challenging and will not happen overnight. While the rationale for embracing the new era of interconnects is clear, there are many factors that are slowing the industry’s movements into becoming the interconnects of the future.

About the Author
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Mikael Holmberg
Distinguished Engineer and Member of the Office of the CTO

Mikael Holmberg is a Distinguished Engineer and Member of the Office of the CTO at Extreme Networks - he was the first person in company history to earn that title!

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