The Lightwave Guest Blog

    Optical networks and the era of Big Data

    June 5, 2014 4:00 PM by Jim Theodoras, ADVA Optical Networking

    Jim Theodoras, ADVA Optical NetworkingWith the coming of the era of “Big Data,” we are faced with the latest in a long line of buzzwords. Big Data refers to the mining of huge data sets to gather new insights and trends that have never before been identifiable by other means.

    In the past, scientists did deep dives into dusty records in musty basements, attempting to prove or disprove a thesis that may or may not have led to fame. Today scientists can sift through vast amounts of data in real time and identify trends as they are occurring. An example frequently sited is Google’s flu map that is able to identify flu levels across a country before the cases are even reported, simply by looking at people’s Internet search patterns.

    At first glance, Big Data might seem to have little to nothing to do with optical communications. Yet, let’s look at one of the more recent analogs, the “cloud.” The cloud referred to the moving of services from local resources to hosted resources that could reside physically anywhere on the globe. When the cloud was mentioned in the same breath as optical communications, it seemed somewhat of a reach. Yet, fast forward to today and the growth in the cloud is arguably the biggest driver in continued growth in optical. I would go as far as saying it has become optical’s most recent savior, for just when it seemed our industry was doomed to follow the slow and steady growth of telecommunication network upgrades, along came the cloud.

    Now it’s all about Big Data. So what does that have to do with the plumbing of the network? It turns out, more than one would think.

    As databases have outgrown the confines of their data centers, they have become truly global in nature. No longer is data hosted locally and simply backed up overnight. Data and computations on that data are now constantly being replicated and load balanced across global networks of data centers. Virtual machines are moved as needed in real time across huge geographical distances. In this context, I would argue that the traditional WAN has become somewhat a misnomer, as wide area networks are no longer relegated to merely areas and may be as wide as the globe.

    The cloud stores everyone’s cold, hard data like a big hard drive in the sky. And now, Big Data will store all the warm and fuzzy relationships between those data sets, a kind of social media for bits and bytes.

    Transport networks for big data transport have some unique needs versus their predecessors. They must be efficient, as space, power, and money are forever in short supply when storing all of mankind’s knowledgebase. Scalability also is important, as some content providers have technology replacement/upgrade cycles as short as 3 years. Big Data is also big money, and given the value inherent in the data itself, all data must be secured as it is shuttled from site to site.

    It turns out Big Data needs big networks. All of which bodes well for our optical industry.

    Jim Theodoras is senior director of technical marketing at ADVA Optical Networking

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Jim Theodoras

By Jim Thoedoras
ADVA Optical Networking

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