This week, a new cloud-centric network operator has launched. PacketFabric aims to bring more of the flexibility and provisioning ease seen in cloud computing into the world of networking and interconnection via an SDN-powered, Ethernet-based connectivity platform. With us today to shed some light on the new company’s initial offerings and its plans for the future is CEO William Charnock, who has previously led networking over at both LimeLight and SoftLayer.
TR: What problem is PacketFabric looking to solve?
WC: My partners and I have worked in the internet infrastructure world for the last couple of decades, and some of the things we saw in the cloud computing space as it evolved over the last decade were intriguing to us. We wanted to build a platform and a company that brought many of the same aspects into the networking realm. What we have built is a cloud networking platform. The problems we are trying to solve are the underlying issues that go along with procuring, consuming, buying, and using network services in general. We felt there was a better way to operate telecommunications infrastructure for enterprises and other users. We felt we could make it easier to consume, and make it more of a point-and-click function.
TR: What network infrastructure have you built out already, and what will you be adding to it?
WC: We operate a nationwide network, providing services in 86 locations in 11 primary markets. We’ve targeted the interconnection-heavy data centers in those markets, because we felt that would give us the broadest reach at launch to on-board the type of services we offer. Over time, in order to move into the enterprise space, we intend to partner with MSOs and local loop carriers to reach locations beyond those data centers. Within the metro, we have lit our own fiber rings. In the longhaul, we are doing deals for spectrum and leased 100G waves, and as our bandwidth grows, we’ll add more of those and even look at potential fiber builds or acquisitions.
TR: What sort of customers are you focusing on initially?
WC: Our focus is primarily on web-scale companies and cloud providers that are looking to broaden their footprint and operate their own network, but aren’t necessarily ready to go out and procure 100G waves from carriers. We give them a more flexible platform where they can take a port in multiple markets at, say 100G, and build virtual overlays that connect those locations together in different ways. It gives them the ability to virtualize those physical ports into multiple services, for example, a virtual LAN and some B2B connectivity can be handled on a single port.
TR: How are you leveraging SDN and other new technologies in your platform?
WC: We’ve built our platform API-first. If a customer is sophisticated enough to integrate it into their back office, they can. We’ve built a portal as well, which makes it a point-and-click experience for enterprises. Services are provisioned instantaneously. If you order a physical port, you get an LOA within a few seconds that you can send to the data center operator to order the cross connect or to a local loop provider to connect into the platform. Once that circuit is up, you can immediately start provisioning services on that port.
TR: How should we think about PacketFabric alongside carriers, IXs, and managed service providers?
WC: Some out there see things like this as a distributed IX, some as a cloud-interconnectivity solution, but we want to be more like a Swiss army knife for networking. You can build the network any way you want in order to accomplish many different goals on our platform. Our vision is to disrupt the traditional way that people consume network resources. We expose levels of network infrastructure that you wouldn’t traditionally get. Even though they are a customer and are utilizing it as a service, it’s exposed in a way that it looks like their network.
TR: Thank you for talking with Telecom Ramblings!
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