A joint case study with EPS Global and Zetta Connect
"EPS worked with us from the beginning of this project from assisting in the solution architecture, vendor section and brokering introductions to IP infusion to start agreeing a viable solution that would provide scalability at a great cost per port."
- Robin Taylor, CEO, Zetta Connect
Zetta Connect, a long-time customer of EPS Global, is an independent connectivity consultancy that helps landlords and tenants to improve the digital infrastructure of their space, making it easier for occupiers to consume connectivity, and as a result making the workspace more appealing and productive. Robin is trying to encourage a move away from internet connectivity being a problem for the tenant to sort out, and a move towards treating it like other utilities that are a given when the tenant agrees a lease. His work includes coordinating with carriers to bring connectivity into a new or refurbished buildings, site surveys, connectivity upgrades and significantly, by designing a fibre cable infrastructure to enable a plug and play solution for tenants.
Can you tell us a bit about Zetta Connect?
I founded Zetta in 2017 to assist tenants in commercial office space with the seemingly simple task of getting connected. Which with the minefield of wayleaves, access issues as well potential civils delays if the chosen carrier is not in the building. We came up with the solution of a ‘Fibre Backbone’ in order to help landlords and developers make it easier for occupiers to consume connectivity. We liken it to you wouldn’t let a floor of a building with no access to electricity – so why should fibre be any different. The fibre backbone model is in essence how connectivity is consumed in data centres whereas we have applied it to the office building. – The occupiers simply order their chosen connectivity to the buildings meet-me room and Zetta will cross connect it to their floor. Everything we do we strive to be fully open access to give occupiers choice. Although we are speaking at an ISPA event we don’t claim to be an ISP. Instead we invite other ISP to use our infrastructure
Can you give us some background on the project, and the challenges Zetta was brought in to solve?
As a natural extension to the fibre backbone and demand for shorter lead time connectivity as our landlord clients pre-fitted out office space, the desire was the stretch the fibre backbone model back to the data centre. By using a mixture of Wavelength services and managed ethernet as well as campus networks we wanted to be able to offer a low cost very rapid provisioned Layer-2 service to allow any ISP in the multiple data centres we have presence to be able to provide a range of services to the buildings we look after and serve.
We also want to look at options to allow our platform to act as an NNI exchange to allow cross selling of service between smaller niched providers. For example one of our partners Luminet specialises in London centric Fixed Wireless and by having NNIs with our current platform allows other ISPs to access their wholesale services without the need for their own dedicated cross connect or ethernet service to their PoP.
Why did you make the move to Open Networking?
We looked at big players for data centre and Edge aggregation switching, however for the bandwidth and port density we were looking at the barrier to entry was too high for us to be able to cost effectively deploy 1 & 10Gb dedicated services.
What was the solution you opted for?/Which products did you use to implement the deployment?
We have had previous dealing with Edgecore’s enterprise devices that EPS supply us with and were impressed with the build quality. It was a natural progression to look at the Edgecore White box Open networking devices. We opted for the AS7712 to provide us 32x 100Gb ports per DC at the spine level a couple of AS5912 to provide us 96x 10Gb ports per DC. We were faced with a wide choice of network operating systems, from Pica8 ONL etc. After a lot of guidance we settle on IP infusion a big part to play in this was their successful implementation of Linx Lon2. Which with the Use of VXLAN EVPN was not to dissimilar use case to ourselves.
How has it worked out for you?/ What were the results/How did these products help?
We are still in the implementation stage with the kit in our lab nearly ready to be deployed to the DCs. We have so far been really impressed with the kit and performance and have been pleasantly surprised by the support from EPS and IPinfusion team for a smaller client with a unique requirement.
How did EPS support you in your move to open disaggregated networking?
EPS worked with us from the beginning of this project from assisting in the solution architecture, vendor section and brokering introductions to IP Infusion to start agreeing a viable solution that would provide scalability at a great cost per port.
Full Transcript from Fibre Backbone – Helping Landlords and Developers to bring improved fibre connectivity to their buildings
[Steve Leighton] I'd therefore like to introduce Barry McGinley who's a Technical Sales Engineer for eps global covering the EMEA region; and Robin Taylor who's the founder of Zetta Connect. These two guys are going to have an open debate and an open discussion in in front of the whole world to explain to us exactly what the benefits of Open Networking are. Over to you guys.
[Barry McGinley] Cheers Steve thanks very much. The benefits of Open Networking or Disaggregation as some of the kind of big carriers or Telcos are calling it to boost performance looking at delivering Gigabit Britain. I'm Barry, pre-sales engineer, network engineer with EPS. What I want to do is first have a look at the Open Networking ecosystem.
This all started around 2009 when Facebook decided they wanted to redesign their entire infrastructure. They got a team together and they redesigned their switches, their software, the racks, the cooling, everything, and that data center is still going in Primeval, Oregon. But the big thing to come out of it was that they open sourced all of the devices and then created the OCP. That's the bottom icon there, the Open Compute Project along with Intel, Rackspace and a few other guys. OCP look after the Bare Metal hardware and the software, for Open Sourced software this would be SONiC.
The way it works is, we'll take Facebook for example again, they'll say “we want a 10G switch with 48x 10G ports and 6x 100G uplink”. They will then give that design specification into the OCP and then hardware vendors like ufiSpace or Edgecore will go and build the specific switch to that design specification. When it's accepted by the OCP, they give all the information back to the OCP so anybody can build it themselves.
The next organization is the ONF (Open Networking Foundation), they started in 2011 as well. It was primarily to look after OpenFlow, which was the first protocol to separate the control and data plane, and to push the benefits of SDN in general. In 2016, it changed direction slightly and they started a project called CORD, which is Central Office Re-architected as a Data center, and they started working with some of the big Telcos and carriers.
The final organization in the ecosystem is TIP or the Telecom Infra Project. They started around the same time as the ONF started CORD, so they have projects in Access, Transport, and Core and Services, and then there's more projects inside of that. They are the community and where all the collaboration happens between all the big Tier-1s.
The benefits and attributes of Open Networking or disaggregation, as it's called, are open hardware and open software which goes on top of it. This is disaggregation separating the hardware from the software. On the attribute side, we have open hardware, White Box, Bare Metal and Brite Box.
Bare Metal is a switch or a router with nothing on it except a bootloader called ONIE and that allows us to install a NOS (Network Operating System) on top of it.
A White Box is a Bare Metal switch which already has the NOS on top of it. Cumulus did Cumulus Express, IP Infusion are doing IPI Pro. Then finally with Brite Box, that would be HP and Dell for example. The Accton group, who own Edgecore, make the majority of the switches for these guys. So a 10G switch that Edgecore sell, a Bare Metal switch, is the exact same as what Dell and HP sell, just with a different badge on it. The same process happens, ONIE as the bootloader they have to install their operating system on top of it. We've Open Software, so we've Open Source and commercial software, and software controlled infrastructure. The benefits of this aggregation are that it provides:
- Freedom, so it removes vendor lock-in. This is the one of the most important parts.
- Greater control over the network
- Rapid innovation. Which is really important as well, because now the hardware guys can go off and build the hardware do what they do well, the software guys can go and do but they do well. Software can be provisioned far quicker than the hardware, so we get rapid innovation.
- Reduced CapEx and OpEx. There's a bit of a ying and yang to the CapEx and OpEx but if you are going Bare Metal with an operating system sitting on top of it and you are going to manage that individually, there's obviously huge cutback savings to be had.
Disaggregated applications helping Gigabit Britain
There's too many here to go through in any sort of detail, it just gives you an idea of how many Bare Metal devices there are now. We have on the Access side, we've OLTs, so XGS PON and G-PON, or any PON, Aggregation Switches and Routers, virtual BNGs, TIBIT is an interesting one, it's a it looks like a transceiver you stick that in a 10G port and you can create your own XGS PON network so really good for enterprises, you can split that 64 or 128 ways.
Then we have White Box transponders with coherent optics, open ROADM's, 400G switch (can go 120km using 400G LR optics), per port it's about as cheap as you're going to get.
On the routing side, Cell Site Routers which have been really successful, AT&T are installing 80,000 of them into their network. Standalone routers, aggregation routers and then distributed chassis routing. I’d love to get into that a little more, so now we can have thousands of ports. If you take a spine and leaf within a data center, we use a Qumran-2C or Jericho2 as the leaf, that's up there Broadcom switching ASICS, then above that we use the RAMON and ASIC which allows us to create the fabric, so now we can scale to thousands of ports.
On the Data Center side, it’s been going for 10 years so it's very mature at this stage. We create fabrics over multiple data centers, huge variety of NOS’s now, 400G moving to 800G and lots of different products at data center interconnect as well. As I said, I could probably do an hour on each of these individually, so I’m not really doing them any justice. EPS’s Role in Open Networking
There's a lot of products, there's a lot of vendors, a lot of software, then there's a lot of hardware vendors, so we kind of sit in the middle of that. We work with all the software vendors and the majority of the hardware vendors, and what we can do is just take some of the hassle out of it so instead of wondering which NOS to put on, or which to trial we can help you with that. Then when it does come to deployment, we will install the NOS and the licensing onto the box and bundle in interoperable transceivers. Basically, the boxes are ready to slide into a cabinet. So, you get all the benefits of Open Networking without the little hassle parts in the middle.
Now I’m going to introduce Robin Taylor, he's the CEO of Zetta Connect.
[Robin Taylor] Hi Barry, thank you very much for inviting me on today and thank you for the expert members for having me today and thank you Steve for the introduction. I’ll kick off by telling you a bit about Zetta.
I founded Zetta back in 2017 to assist tenants of commercial office space with the seemingly simple task of getting connected, which with the minefield of way leaves access issues which been mentioned by some of the earlier sessions as well as potential civil delays if your chosen carriers not in the building. We came up with a solution of a fiber backbone to help landlords and developers make it easier for occupiers to consume that connectivity they want. The best way to liken it is you would not let a floor of an office building with no access to electricity, so why should fibre be any different? This sort of touches on should fibre be a utility?
The fibre backbone model is in essence how connectivity is consumed in a data centre, with you ordering service from a provider and that gets delivered to a meet me room when you order a cross connect. It is exactly the same model we apply to a commercial office building, we build a fiber backbone and the tenant board is a service and we cross connect it with the up to the tenant's floor without need for way leave.
We work with everyone who is selling fibre, from the city fibres and community fibres, right through to the Virgins and Verizons of this world to connect the occupiers of these buildings. Everything we do is Open Access to ensure that any occupiers of these buildings have full choice, and although we are speaking at an ISPA event, we don't actually claim to be an ISP ourselves, instead we invite other ISPs to use our infrastructure to deliver that service. In fact, we have a rule internally that we do not sell or resell directly to tenants of building, we allow the ISPs to do that, we just facilitate it. We have got clients up and down the country, and so we make it our business to know who's building what and where. A couple of examples, we have got a project in Bath where the landlord is targeting wide school and we need to bring another provider into the building to facilitate that. We have engaged with true speed to assist with this. Further afield, we are working on a few projects in Glasgow with Commsword to do that. I will just take this opportunity now I saw there was a question on the last panel session from Jan regarding sharing of infrastructure and MDUs, and this is exactly what we facilitate with our fiber backbone. We have multiple ISPs coming into the basement, and we provide a shared infrastructure to deliver that service to the tenants within the buildings.
[Barry McGinley] You touched on what you do there, but the actual project you brought Open Networking in to try and help with can you give us a little more information on that?
[Robin Taylor] So as a sort of natural extension of the fiber backbones being within the building, connecting a sort of carrier meet me area in the basement building to the tenants, the demand for shorter lead times of services from our landlord clients who are providing pre-fitted out space who want to have Wi-Fi, they want to have the furniture in, and they want to be able to move tenants in very quickly, with sort of WeWork level of flexibility. We're sort of taking the fiber backbone model and stretching that instead of to the meet me room and basement we stretch that back to a data center. We're using a mixture of wavelength services and managed ethernet to do that.
We're also deploying it as a campus networks on some of the larger developments to be able to offer very low cost, rapidly provision layer 2 service, and that's open to any of the ISPs in the data center who wish to cross-connect with us. They can access those tenants within the buildings.
Quick example, we deployed Open Access blown fiber tubing infrastructure around 100 Liverpool street, central London, we've provided cross connects to six different tenants for 30 different circuits from 7 ISPs within the building, and we have our wavelength bearer coming from Volta data center from our new core that we're building as part of this project to facilitate that connectivity. Going forwards the intention is to allow our platform to act as an NNI exchange, to allow cross-connecting of services between smaller, more specialist niche providers who have customers and don't necessarily want to do their own dedicated cross-connect.
So as an example, one of our partners Luminet, who specialized in London centric fixed wireless connectivity have NNI’d with us and that allows other ISPs who have NNI with us to access Luminet services as a wholesale product without having to be in the same data center or having their own dedicated cross connect or ethernet service to Luminex within the data centres they're in.
[Barry McGinley] Okay and did you chose an Open Networking solution? Why did you choose that over your Cisco or Juniper and what did you actually choose?
[Robin Taylor] So we looked at the big players within the industry and for bandwidth and port density we're looking for and the barrier to entry of the bigger players was just too high for us to effectively be able to deploy the sort of 10G services that we were targeting. We're talking 10G dedicated ethernet and we really like the fact that we weren't tied to a specific hardware or software vendor. We could chop in and out hardware if there was a particular switch from a vendor that suited our needs. We had a full range of choice in terms of the solution that we've actually deployed. We've had previous dealings with Edgecore on their enterprise devices, that EPS have been supplying us with and we're really impressed with the build quality of those switches. It was a natural progression for us to look at Edgecore's Whitebox Open Networking devices. In the end we opted for the AS7712 to provide us with a 100G ports at a spine level within data center, and 50x AS5912 to provide us multiple 10G ports. We were faced with a huge range of choices of operating systems that we could run on those devices from PICA8; Open Networking Linux (ONL); etc., with plenty of guidance from Barry and the team. We settled on IP Infusion to run as our NOS of choice. A big part to play with that was a successful implementation of LINX LON 2 which is a similar topology running VXLAN EVPN's to our use case.
[Barry McGinley] I think they're deploying in Manchester now as well, OcNOS as well. So what stage of deployment are you at or implementation?
[Robin Taylor] We've got some kit heading to the data centre, some kit in the lab ready to go. We've been really pleased with some testing we've done so far and the performance of the kit, especially with the support that we've had from yourself Barry, EPS and the wider IP Infusion team, in terms of our slightly unique use case for some, smaller deployment. They could not have been more helpful.
[Steve Leighton] There's a question in the chat for you Robin which I’ll just read out. “It's an interesting approach at least for commercial property presumably any ISP SLAs run to the commons room you provide support to the customer for the inbuilding infrastructure, so who pays for your infrastructure and service? Is it the ISP, the landlord, the occupier, or someone else?”
[Robin Taylor] We try and keep the model as simple as possible, the occupier pays a one-off cross-connect charge for us to go in there, cross-connect their service, test it, and the landlord pays us a recurring annual fee to provide an SLA. We aim to match the service providers SLA in terms of a break fix of the infrastructure within the building.
[Steve Leighton] Okay that's great, so Robin, Barry's been asking you all the questions have you got any for him?
[Robin Taylor] I’ve not got any specific and I know Barry’s got one more for me.
[Barry McGinley] Finally, what does the future hold for Zetta? I’m just interested to know where you see yourselves in five- or ten-years’ time.
[Robin Taylor] So, we're welcoming more ISPs to join us both in the DC's and make use of our Open Access fiber backbones within the building. Ultimately, as primarily a consultancy business, we aim to be the UK’s leading connectivity consultants, as well as maintaining our open accessibility. As with many others in the industry we're developing a portal and this will enable our landlord partners to view all our properties connectivity capabilities in one place. In time, we plan to add on-demand provisioning so that our customers and service providers can provision their own services, once they got on an NNI in place with sort of minimum fuss and the shortest lead time possible.
[Steve Leighton] So we're kind of out of time guys it was an interesting rebate good discussion. Barry, Robin, thanks very much I think Audrey’s going to get you guys to step away from the stage now.