Toronto Hydro Telecom rides a (managed) wave

Toronto Hydro Telecom has launched Managed Wave, a dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) service that allows enterprises to consolidate all their network services onto a single circuit.

“It’s a way for enterprises to cost-effectively converge their networking services,” said David Dobbin, THT’s president. The simplified network lowers costs, he said.

As an example, Dobbin described an unnamed customer headquartered in Toronto (THT’s Managed Wave contracts include a confidentiality agreement), with an offsite data centre copy. “They were buying nine or 10 different circuits to connect these sites,” he said. Through THT’s Managed Wave service, the customer can now run a 1Gbps Ethernet connection, a 1Gps storage area network (SAN) connection and a DS3 connection for voice service over a single circuit, with full redundancy.

There are two basic scenarios for customers using Managed Wave, according to Dobbin. In the first, the customer – for example, a financial institution – owns its own DWDM gear. Managed Wave provides a more efficient path and better redundancy, he says, allowing the customer to retain the investment in the very expensive DWDM equipment.

“Our system accepts alien wavelength (i.e., signals from third party gear),” said Dobbin. “Nobody else’s does.”

In the second scenario, THT provides the DWDM equipment and up to 2.5 or 10 Gbps bandwidth as subrated services. For example, a client with a 10 Gbps pipe could provision 5G for Ethernet traffic and the other five for SAN traffic. It’s high enough bandwidth to carry multiple high-definition video signals, and Dobbin said an unnamed content company is transmitting nine HD channels uncompressed between locations over the service.

Pricing depends on how the bandwidth is subrated, Dobbin said. For example, 4G of Ethernet service would cost less than 4G of SAN connectivity, which would again cost less than the equivalent amount of video connectivity.

“It depends on what you want,” Dobbin said. “The service is available in a plethora of flavours,” and users can separate into different types of channels, including Gigabit Ethernet, OC3 and DS3. For example, Dobbin said, a user with a simple service between two locations might pay a fee as low as $4,000 per month, whereas someone else might pay more than $100,000 per month.

While Dobbin says the market for the service is any customer with exceptionally large bandwidth requirements, the killer app for the service is disaster recovery. Customers can completely mirror a site in real-time over the network, according to Dobbin.

“What’s one day of data worth? It’s worth a lot of money,” Dobbin said.

The service should appeal to any company with a large data centre that wants to avoid prioritizing traffic, according to a market research analyst.

“This looks like a metro-area network service that (Toronto) Hydro would be perfectly well-positioned to provide,” said Brownlee Thomas, Montreal-based principal analyst for enterprise telecom services at Forrester Research Inc. of Cambridge, Mass.

Thomas added any company with a large data centre needing to move vast amounts of content could be in the market for Managed Wave, depending on the price.

“When you’ve got all this bandwidth, you don’t have to worry about prioritizing traffic,” she said “Anywhere you want fat pipe, you want this. I think this is well positioned, depending on the price point.”

Amit Kaminer, Toronto-based analyst with The SeaBoard Group, says that from a business continuity perspective, a failed system should be up and running within an hour. THT guarantees five-nines uptime, Kaminer said, rather than using the number as a goal.

Kaminer believes THT’s best asset is its inventory of dark fibre in the Greater Toronto Area, which allows it to provide the service using its own fibre end to end.

“Information is increasing on a daily basis,” Kaminer said, and there’s a competitive advantage in a simple and sophisticated solution to push and pull your data.

“If the existing infrastructure is restricting your current operations, that’s not good,” Kaminer said.

In a recent Forrester Research survey, cited by Thomas, of companies shopping for metro-area networks, 62 per cent of respondents said they want to increase the bandwidth available to data centre storage sites.

Forrester surveyed about 700 companies with more than 1,000 employees, and seven per cent of respondents said adoption of metropolitan or long-haul networks is a “critical priority” right now, while an additional 13 per cent said it’s a “priority.” Forty-six per cent said it’s “not on the agenda” while 30 per cent said it is on the agenda.

In the same poll, Forrester also asked companies to describe their adoption of metro-area networking. Twenty-two per cent said it was “fully deployed,” 17 per cent said it was “partially deployed” and an additional 17 per cent said they were either evaluating the technology or they had implemented a pilot project.

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