Five Steps to Metro Area Net

In just five steps, you can create your own metropolitan area network that provides business survivability, circuit redundancy and competitive circuit pricing.

Concerns loom for those contemplating a build of their own dark-fiber network. Be at ease. In just five steps, you can create your own metropolitan area network that provides business survivability, circuit redundancy and competitive circuit pricing.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here for an inside look at the Gannett Companys emerging dark-fiber strategy.

1. Inventory costs

Take a complete in- ventory of your current circuit-related costs. You may have to tease those cost items out of the accounting department or cajole them from other operating units.

Look under every related cost category. Seek out voice circuits, digital video, satellite signals, cable TV signals, Internet connections and other point-to-point circuits. Evaluate current contract terms, including length of contract, volume commitments and penalties. And be aware that different circuits will often have completely different sets of contract terms.

Some cost savings may hide in unlikely places. For example, software costs for database replication disappear when using a high-speed metropolitan area network that provides SAN (storage area network) extensions.

If you can identify a total expense of $7,000 on data circuits and Internet services, youre in good shape to move forward.

2. Identify fiber providers

Identify fiber providers in your area that pass through or by your buildings and also have presence within a neutral carrier hotel.

Sometimes a simple check of the telecommunications closets in your office will yield the identity of fiber owners—just take a look at the cables, which are often branded with company names for easy identification.

Other dark-fiber sources may include companies that have easements across your property to provide services, such as local power, water and gas utilities, as well as cable companies and telephone companies. Consider companies such as AboveNet Inc., AT&T Corp., Fibertech Networks LLC, Level 3 Communications Inc., CityNet, US Signal and Time Warner Telecom Inc.

3. Gather quotes

Get quotes for optical gear and installation services to connect your offices and carrier hotel.

Designing a fiber network requires fairly accurate fiber mile measurements. You need to know what circuits you want among all the points on your fiber loop. Start with a point-to-point map and define the types of connections youll need, including the types of fiber interfaces from the existing network equipment you plan to use. Include fiber termination types, such as single-mode or multimode of 850 or 1,310 nanometers.

xWDM (Wavelength Division Multiplexing) vendors can then create a network design using the best capabilities of their equipment. Vendors to consider include ADVA Optical Networking Inc., Alcatel, Canoga Perkins Corp., Ciena Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., MRV Communications Inc., Zhone Technologies Inc., the Torrey Pines Networks subsidiary of Entrada Networks and Transmode Systems AB.

In addition, examine your need for transporting lower-speed T-1, T-3 and 10/100BaseT Ethernet. You may need to multiplex these signals on a single xWDM wavelength if your xWDM vendor does not provide native interfaces at those speeds. Small SONET (Synchronous Optical Network) multiplexers work great for aggregating these lower-speed circuits.

As you contemplate your network design, make sure you include funding for all the new client device interfaces you may need to support the new connectivity (such as switches, routers and Fibre Channel hubs).

4. Choose a carrier hotel

Choose a carrier hotel owner with connections to your fiber plant and seek relationships with several service providers that will help create a competitive market for the services you need.

Competitively bid your new and replacement circuit fees. The carrier hotel will charge you a fee for rack space and power, as well as for each connection.

Look closely at the data center quality of the facility: Does it have dual entrances, redundant power (AC and DC), UPS (uninterruptible power supply) capabilities, generators and exceptional security? Some providers in this area include Equinix Inc., Global Crossing, Level 3 Communications Inc., and Switch and Data.

While a dark-fiber network by itself can create compelling financial and infrastructure advantages, the pairing of this network with a competitive environment for service providers yields additional business advantages, such as carrier diversity and service diversity across vendors.

5. Evaluate viability

Once the three legs of the dark- fiber strategy—fiber, equipment and services—are in place, evaluate the complete package for viability in your own business case.

If the plan passes the final evaluation, execute the strategy. Work with your chosen vendors to create installation work orders, design service-level agreements, execute contracts and issue purchase orders.

Once the network is installed and tested, execute your migration plan from old services to the new infrastructure.

The move to high-speed networking, using a dark-fiber strategy, positions your company for enhanced survivability services and future benefits in a competitive carrier environment. The benefits justify the means.

Gary Gunnerson is IT architect at Gannett Company Inc., publisher of USA Today, and an eWEEK Corporate Partner.

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