TECH PERSPECTIVE / THE DIGITAL EDGE
PUBLISHED 18 JULY 2018

Managing Risk

The idea of “managing risk” is a familiar one. In our day-to-day lives, we often “spread our risk” to avoid something from happening (or at least minimize the likelihood) or buy a “spare” to be able to carry on should an unfortunate eventuality happen in the future. In practice this might mean maintaining a diversified investment portfolio to avoid “putting all your eggs into one basket”, or it might see you take out some form of insurance policy. Either way, the concept of identifying “a risk” and taking mitigating action is one we carry out many times a year.

Risks and potential eventualities exist in the networking world as much as they do in our private lives.

Enterprises today rely entirely on their network. And in most cases, the loss of network connectivity can see productivity at a site grind to a halt as users are unable to access critical applications.

Service availability is everything.

Designed as a 100Gbps dual fiber loop, FA-1 can provide high capacity, fully-protected trans-Atlantic private line services between the US and Europe via separate North and South trans-Atlantic cables.
Private Line or Shared Infrastructure?

Firstly, it is important to recognize that different network technologies are designed to achieve different objectives.

Multi-national corporations (MNCs) with applications that are not latency-critical or which reside in the Cloud, are increasingly looking to use “SD-WAN”, with the Internet and “Hybrid WAN” as the underlying network technology. By its very nature, the Internet is a “meshed” lattice of interconnected networks that rely on “routing” to map a course between 2 points. Based on a model of shared infrastructure and “contended” capacity, this is by far the most cost-effective use of available network infrastructure as it does not “dedicate” bandwidth to individual users. Instead, the Internet works on the basis of net neutrality (and best efforts) to handle traffic across multiple network paths. While this offers a degree of “insurance”, it inevitably comes at a marginal “cost” to performance, since traffic can take more than one route across a network which is not always the most direct traffic path.

Conversely, MNCs who pass enormous amounts of data between international sites, for example in the US and Europe, or whose data may be too sensitive or valuable to use shared infrastructure, are more likely to choose more “basic” and fundamental private connectivity. These trans-Atlantic “private lines” (at “layer 1” or sometimes “layer 2”) provide dedicated capacity, and are shared with no-one.

The benefits of a trans-Atlantic private line are clear. Uncontended capacity, known physical paths, reliable and predictable performance. And the single biggest disadvantage is of course that a private line is a “point-to-point” connection. If the connection is lost in any way, users simply cannot connect to their applications. And while an Internet-based network “back-up” connection can be put in place to cater for this potential eventuality, it may dilute the performance in the event that the back-up connection is required.

It would be like taking out an insurance policy which renders slightly lower levels of cover or perhaps a higher “excess payment” for the first $x dollars of a claim.

But all is not lost. MNCs whose application performance requirements dictate the use of a trans-Atlantic private line can still spread their risk or invest in insurance. Typically, they do this by having more than one connection in place. But think about it; an insurance policy isn’t going to offer much insurance if it’s built on the same foundations as the services it is designed to protect.

The building blocks of a trans-Atlantic Private Line

The key to buying more than 1 trans-Atlantic private line, is to ensure “separacy” and “redundancy”. This usually means ensuring every building block of each service is different; building entry points and cross-connects, local loops, Central Offices (CO) and Local Exchanges, carrier PoP, terrestrial backhaul fiber, Cable Landing Stations (CLSs), subsea fiber and subsea network ownership.

The devil really is in the detail.

Not all subsea cables over which each trans-Atlantic private line runs will have resilience and redundancy built in. Some either have no redundant path available, or if they do, it goes on a long and circuitous route elsewhere that renders it meaningless.

Most MNCs are familiar with domestic and metro fiber runs, building diversity, carrier PoP separacy and redundancy at CO. But one often-overlooked aspect is where subsea cables come out of the ocean and connect to backhaul; CLSs.

Trans-Atlantic Subsea Cables

A quick glimpse at the mish mash of trans-Atlantic cables that connect the US to the UK and France on Telegeography’s Submarine Cable Map illustrates the point. The route between the Europe and North America is one of the most popular and congested, with as many as 17 cables crossing the ocean. But look more closely at the CLSs in Manasquan (NJ), Wall (NJ), Shirley (NY) and Bude (UK) and you will see facilities that land multiple subsea cables; most of which cross the vast Atlantic Ocean.

And as with any shared facility, this represents a risk.

Taking it one step further, most trans-Atlantic subsea cable systems are owned by a consortium of telcos, all of whom are competing for the same market share. This shared ownership model can also give rise to issues. Multiple cable owners trying to sell the same capacity, a potential conflict of interest between consortium members who are also direct competitors, the availability of separate backhaul fiber and routes back to carrier PoPs.

When buying a trans-Atlantic private line you really do need to do your homework.

FA-1 – 100G trans-Atlantic Private Line for Maximum Network Uptime
GCX’s FA-1 is different and unique. It is a multi-terabit trans-Atlantic system which connects New York and Washington DC to London, Slough, Paris, Frankfurt and Marseille. From Marseille it also connects directly to the Middle East and Asia.

FA-1 is the perfect system to add redundancy and resilience to any private line requirement between east Coast US and Western Europe.

Designed as a 100Gbps dual fiber loop, FA-1 can provide high capacity, fully-protected trans-Atlantic private line services between the US and Europe via separate North and South trans-Atlantic cables. And thanks to private, dedicated landings in UK, France and New York, with two-way diversity into US (no “Single Point of Failure”), FA-1 can ensure maximum network uptime.

But if that’s not enough, FA-1 (South) remains one of only 2 subsea cable systems to connect directly between the US and France, and offers the lowest subsea latency between New York and Paris.

Unlike with consortium-owned systems, full private ownership of FA-1 gives GCX gives total control over decision-making on all aspects of the services offered. This includes engineering, capacity, routing, upgrades, maintenance, service restoration, commercial and so on.

So if your US to Europe connections are critical, and even if you already have trans-Atlantic private lines in place, can you afford not to consider managing your risk with FA-1 ?

After all, when buying insurance, it is often much safer to talk to the underwriter than a broker.