How network connectivity and transit solutions are evolving in the cloud computing era

I recently came across an interesting startup, PacketFabric, that’s bringing the scalability, affordability, and transparency of cloud computing to the telecommunications industry. With their product, businesses can purchase capacity as needed and create their own private Internet backbones.

In this short post, I explore when the fundamentals of cloud computing started making their way into the telecommunications space. As you’ll see, in the near future, it will be as easy for companies to purchase transit services as it is for them to spin up virtual private servers and build things like content delivery networks.

As the world becomes more strongly connected, so too must the network that creates these connections. With traditional networking services, this is possible but neither practical nor efficient.

In 2007, an IEEE group started developing a standard to improve bandwidth potential across the Internet’s core infrastructure. Colloquially known as the 40/100 GbE standard, this standard would create the foundation to better support high-bandwidth applications such as over-the-top content services, server virtualization, and cloud computing.

This standard was ratified in 2010 and has only recently been implemented by some service providers. During this latent period, technology like network function virtualization (NFV) and cloud computing became popular. The former technology made networks more efficient — hardware could be substituted for software — while the latter made services more accessible.

Virtualization and cloud computing gave businesses the opportunity to complete monumental projects and own powerful applications without needing to own hardware. Now, these concepts are being extended to network connectivity, giving businesses the opportunity to connect directly to other businesses and services without traversing the clutter of the public Internet.

Traditional transit offered by Tier 1 providers is made up of outdated systems and pricing agreements. By bringing cloud computing concepts to connectivity, traditional transit will be forced to change. Software-defined networking technology will let business create their own Internet backbone in seconds and create and destroy “virtual circuits” on a whim.

Take the cloud computing company Digital Ocean for instance: This virtual private server provider lets businesses spin up powerful servers in seconds. And businesses only have to pay for what they use per minute. When businesses no longer need the server, they destroy it and stop paying for it.

Because of the power of cloud computing, Digital Ocean can instantly open up the server space for future customers without hurting their bottom line. Connectivity will eventually work the same way. Disruptive companies will enter the telecom space and change how businesses acquire and pay for connectivity services.

If you want to learn more about cloud computing concepts, I recommend the book Architecting the Cloud. It’s just technical enough and a good way to level up from a basic understanding of cloud computing to an intermediate understanding of it. As shown in this post, these concepts will start leaking into other areas of web operations so they’re worth learning.