Fresh off its upgrades to the London-Frankfurt route and the NY-Chicago route, Level 3 Communications (NYSE:LVLT, news, filings) has improved its low latency position on the transatlantic leg as well. They nave opened a new strategic positioned node in LD4/5 datacenter campus of Equinix (NASDAQ:EQIX, news, filings) just outside London, and via a new loop that bypasses central London they have connected that node directly to three of their transatlantic routes: AC-1, Apollo North, and of course their own Yellow. That bypass has allowed them to cut latency on all three routes.
Now, there’s a limit to what one can do to a transatlantic cable to improve its latency, the mileage on the route is what it is. But from what I’ve been able to glean, when it comes to transatlantic latency, AC-1 is currently on top, with Yellow/AC2 and then Apollo close on its heels. Most of the improvements one can make are on land on either side, however, and especially in the UK since the cables come ashore some distance from London itself.
In a separate release yesterday, NovaSparks is moving to take advantage of Level 3’s London-Frankfurt improvements. They completed a test showing that their own systems in combination with a direct optical interface to Level 3’s fiber can save some 40-100 microseconds, with bursts up to 300 microseconds. Other operators are said to be working on latency improvements on the London-Frankfurt route as well, the remainder of the year should be interesting over there.
The low latency frenzy that began with the financial community and which shown signs of spreading to other verticals and geographies is the first opportunity in a decade for network operators to differentiate themselves by, well, building better networks. There is a cost, which is that one can never sleep. Victories are always temporary and there is always someone out there working on a faster route. But that’s a challenge that an engineer can rise to, whereas the telecom nuclear winter was a bleak desolation that didn’t care how hard you worked or how cleverly you designed things. So… I still don’t really see the long term macro economic benefit to shaving fifty microseconds off a route, but what the heck – bring it on.
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