By MEGHAN FULLER
When Proctor & Gamble, manufacturer of more than 300 products consumed by five billion people in 140 countries worldwide, ran out of capacity on its existing OC-12 SONET ring, one solution made the most sense for the long term: Build a private transport network that is simple, scalable, and cost-effective. That's precisely what the Cincinnati-based company has decided to do, becoming one of the first Fortune 500 companies to implement such a strategy.
"We were looking at future growth parameters as we were approaching capacity at some of our sites on the ring," explains Jim Scholefield, data-communications manager at Proctor & Gamble. "We were trying to figure out the best way to get the kind of bandwidth we need and the growth we need, just given the density of our user base. In order to meet their needs, it's going to take something of fairly large scale. It just happened to make sense."
Proctor & Gamble has seen its bandwidth needs double and even triple each year, and this growth, along with the emerging need for greater convergence, drove the decision to build the network. The company is also committed to making the Internet part of everything it does. "There are a lot of applications that are sitting out there-voice over IP [Internet Protocol], video over IP, streaming media-just waiting for the kind of bandwidth that we will be able to deliver on this kind of network," says Scholefield.
The 144-fiber-count backbone will extend over 60 mi and loop around the Ohio side of Cincinnati, connecting all seven of Proctor & Gamble's major campuses. Several sub-loops will add 40 more miles. Each fiber-pair will be capable of transmitting up to 2 Tbits/sec-or the equivalent of an entire Encyclopedia Britannica- from San Francisco to New York in 1/320th of a second, say company representatives. The initial protocol implementation is Ethernet, but the company expects to migrate to Gigabit Ethernet and DWDM in the near future. Installation is currently underway, with completion expected by mid-to-late summer.
Cinergy Communications (Cincinnati), a subsidiary of diversified energy company Cinergy Corp., will install and maintain the network. Proctor & Gamble will only use a portion of the network's total capacity; an undisclosed percentage will be allocated to Cinergy's other area customers.
"The interesting thing about this network," says Steven Brash, manager of external communications at Cinergy, "is that it's a large network that's designed for the needs for a single customer but built with the capacity to serve many other customers, and that's very unusual." Though he considers Cincinnati a well-wired city, Brash admits that bandwidth is restricted geographically, and he expects the network to provide a much-needed dispersion of connectivity in the area.
Corning Cable Systems (Corning, NY) has been named the exclusive cable and hardware supplier for the project, a decision that was spearheaded by Proctor & Gamble. "We were able to incorporate [Corning's MetroCor fiber] as part of the arrangement we had [with Cinergy], and we're happy with the decision," says Scholefield. "Given that a large cost of the build is the actual construction, it seemed to be a place where we didn't want to cut corners."
Per the agreement, Corning Cable Systems will provide its MetroCor nonzero dispersion-shifted fiber, optimized for use in metropolitan ring networks. The fiber provides negative dispersion in the C- and L-bands, resulting in pulse compression, which translates into longer distance capabilities and a reduction in the need for costly electronics. Corning is enthusiastic about the project and the opportunities it presents.
"Many times people think of metro providers as companies that are actually providing direct services to customers or a dark fiber player, a carrier's carrier, that type of thing," says Matthew Estep, product-line manager for MetroCor fiber at Corning. "But we've always targeted enterprise networks as possible users of these products, primarily because-and I would say Proctor & Gamble is in the same boat-they've got to connect their campuses with a network they can rely on and, at the same time, open up space for other systems providers. It's a win-win for them. They can save money on the system and also provide high-data-rate services, as well."
The MetroCor fiber also provides flexibility for future all-optical networking, which is also important to Proctor & Gamble. "There are a lot of applications like data storage and disaster recovery that are sitting in the wings that you need pretty significant bandwidth to deliver," says Scholefield. "[The new network] allows us to break the mold a little bit about what we were doing and move in a different direction."
In the near term, however, the new network will provide all the bandwidth Proctor & Gamble needs-and then some. The company had decided to reserve a certain portion of its capacity for use by nonprofit organizations. The first to benefit will be Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, chosen for its commitment to improve the region's information-technology workforce.