Communicating Innovation

John Savageau

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The Future of Carrier Hotels and Mixed-Use Office Buildings

We all know the buildings, One Wilshire, The Westin Building, 60 Hudson, Telehouse (UK), 200 Paul, 1102 Grand – all buildings advertising dozens, or even hundreds of carriers using the properties for interconnections at the fiber and network level.  Meet-me-rooms are crowded, ladder racks full, and each property sits in the middle of the central business district in large cities.

Splincing FiberAt one point, rumors circled the industry that if One Wilshire had a catastrophic failure of infrastructure that global communications may be  set back to the mid 1960s.  True or not, the building’s meet-me-room supports hundreds of interconnections which are single-threaded connecting carriers in distant countries and continents.

All in buildings designed to house office users.  All buildings with little or no potential for external security.  All buildings with challenges for internal electrical distribution, cooling, and

Fiber infrastructure is not going away anytime soon.  The Internet, and what the internet is likely to evolve in the future, will be a combination of high performance wireless access and fixed access connecting every square centimeter of countries to what we are now calling the Fourth Utility.  The Fourth Utility being a marriage of broadband infrastructure and cloud computing infrastructure.

As a utility, the infrastructure should be envisioned, planned, and implemented as basic infrastructure, with compromise only considered to accommodate exceptions, such as legal limitations or geological limitations.  Where we need to interconnect segments of this infrastructure, as in carrier hotels, the interconnection points should be designed as infrastructure, and not a compromise.

Of course this is not surprising.  Carrier hotels by design evolved from a need to find methods for competitive carriers and networks to directly interconnect without the requirement to use an incumbent or formerly monopoly carrier as a transit point.  During the period of global telecom deregulation in the 1980s and 1990s those carriers scrambled to find common interconnection points near metro and long distance fiber routes.

Locations offering a neutral location in close proximity to major metro, long distance, and transcontinental submarine cable routes were found in the central business districts (CBDs) of Los Angeles, Seattle, Miami, New York, and London.  Most of those locations (exception Miami/NAP of the Americas) did not have the space, nor did carriers have the money, to construct a proper central office-grade facility in the CBD to accommodate the electronic switches and muxes needed to support the carriers.

Thus the most suitable, and available, office building was selected to meet the most basic needs of the carriers.

During the 1990s global telecom deregulation progressed and changes in ownership of submarine cables allowed large numbers of international carriers to establish a presence in the carrier meet-me-rooms (MMRs) in buildings such as One Wilshire.  The MMRs were operated by building landlords, with little or no telecom industry operational experience, resulting in installations which were far below normal telecom industry standards.

While MMRs have improved greatly during the past few years, the reality is we have a tremendous amount of national infrastructure being built into properties not designed for the telecom industry – infrastructure that will continue being more and more essential to our ability both as a nation, and as a member of the global economic and social community.

The United States should view telecom and cloud computing as a utility, critical to the national infrastructure.  Standards that follow the same principles of roads, water, and electrical distribution must be applied to the telecom industry, including carrier hotels and other implementations contributing to the Fourth Utility.

The telecom industry must not accept new MMR or carrier hotel infrastructure that is not a design custom suited to the needs of carriers requiring interconnections.  In addition, no infrastructure can tolerate single points of failure on the backbone.  You cannot control a point of failure at all access points, much like an access road washing out during a flood – however the backbone must have resiliency and redundancy.

Here is a call to action for the telecom industry.  Do not accept, support, contribute to, or participate in infrastructure deployments which do not provide levels of both operational and physical security needed to ensure our critical Fourth Utility of telecom infrastructure needed to protect our national and global interests.


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More Stories By John Savageau

John Savageau is a life long telecom and Internet geek, with a deep interest in the environment and all things green. Whether drilling into the technology of human communications, cloud computing, or describing a blue whale off Catalina Island, Savageau will try to present complex ideas in terms that are easily appreciated and understood.

Savageau is currently focusing efforts on data center consolidation strategies, enterprise architectures, and cloud computing migration planning in developing countries, including Azerbaijan, The Philippines, Palestine, Indonesia, Moldova, Egypt, and Vietnam.

John Savageau is President of Pacific-Tier Communications dividing time between Honolulu and Burbank, California.

A former career US Air Force officer, Savageau graduated with a Master of Science degree in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas and also received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Asian Studies and Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland.