The Future of Carrier Hotels and Mixed-Use Office Buildings

We all know the buildings, One Wilshire, The Westin Building, 60 Hudson, Telehouse (UK), 200 Paul, 1102 Grand – all buildings advertising dozens, or even hundreds of carriers using the properties for interconnections at the fiber and network level.  Meet-me-rooms are crowded, ladder racks full, and each property sits in the middle of the central business district in large cities.

Splincing FiberAt one point, rumors circled the industry that if One Wilshire had a catastrophic failure of infrastructure that global communications may be  set back to the mid 1960s.  True or not, the building’s meet-me-room supports hundreds of interconnections which are single-threaded connecting carriers in distant countries and continents.

All in buildings designed to house office users.  All buildings with little or no potential for external security.  All buildings with challenges for internal electrical distribution, cooling, and Fiber infrastructure that is not going away anytime soon.

The Internet, and what the internet is likely to evolve in the future, will be a combination of high performance wireless access and fixed access connecting every square centimeter of countries to what we are now calling the Fourth Utility.  The Fourth Utility being a marriage of broadband infrastructure and cloud computing infrastructure.

As a utility, the infrastructure should be envisioned, planned, and implemented as basic infrastructure, with compromise only considered to accommodate exceptions, such as legal limitations or geological limitations.  Where we need to interconnect segments of this infrastructure, as in carrier hotels, the interconnection points should be designed as infrastructure, and not a compromise.

Of course this is not surprising.  Carrier hotels by design evolved from a need to find methods for competitive carriers and networks to directly interconnect without the requirement to use an incumbent or formerly monopoly carrier as a transit point.  During the period of global telecom deregulation in the 1980s and 1990s those carriers scrambled to find common interconnection points near metro and long distance fiber routes.

Locations offering a neutral location in close proximity to major metro, long distance, and transcontinental submarine cable routes were found in the central business districts (CBDs) of Los Angeles, Seattle, Miami, New York, and London.  Most of those locations (exception Miami/NAP of the Americas) did not have the space, nor did carriers have the money, to construct a proper central office-grade facility in the CBD to accommodate the electronic switches and muxes needed to support the carriers.

Thus the most suitable, and available, office building was selected to meet the most basic needs of the carriers.

During the 1990s global telecom deregulation progressed and changes in ownership of submarine cables allowed large numbers of international carriers to establish a presence in the carrier meet-me-rooms (MMRs) in buildings such as One Wilshire.  The MMRs were operated by building landlords, with little or no telecom industry operational experience, resulting in installations which were far below normal telecom industry standards.

While MMRs have improved greatly during the past few years, the reality is we have a tremendous amount of national infrastructure being built into properties not designed for the telecom industry – infrastructure that will continue being more and more essential to our ability both as a nation, and as a member of the global economic and social community.

The United States should view telecom and cloud computing as a utility, critical to the national infrastructure.  Standards that follow the same principles of roads, water, and electrical distribution must be applied to the telecom industry, including carrier hotels and other implementations contributing to the Fourth Utility.

The telecom industry must not accept new MMR or carrier hotel infrastructure that is not a design custom suited to the needs of carriers requiring interconnections.  In addition, no infrastructure can tolerate single points of failure on the backbone.  You cannot control a point of failure at all access points, much like an access road washing out during a flood – however the backbone must have resiliency and redundancy.

Here is a call to action for the telecom industry.  Do not accept, support, contribute to, or participate in infrastructure deployments which do not provide levels of both operational and physical security needed to ensure our critical Fourth Utility of telecom infrastructure needed to protect our national and global interests.

About johnsavageau
Another telecom junkie who has been bouncing around the international communications community for most of the past 35 years.

2 Responses to The Future of Carrier Hotels and Mixed-Use Office Buildings

  1. David Sandel says:

    Great post ! Back in 2004 The St. Louis Regional Exchange Collaborative was incorporated as the first quasi-governmental Exchange point in the USA. At the outset, one of the design parameters for the Exchange was that there would be at least two Exchange points, both mirror images of each other, yet with fiber route redundancy between both sites; ingress and egress. In this way, the overall Exchange would be more survivable for the Exchange while also provide for customer diversity – step one.

    Then later that year, we filed a NSF Grant called “A Secure and Survivable Exchange Point”. The NSF Grant took the design issue one great step forward and proposed that the Exchange would also have the ability to observe and change it’s IP packet configuration at Layer 3 and above during a catastrophe.

    The reason being is that we now know that during a catastrophe, local IP traffic could reach an unprecedented level and impact local communication and public safety networks. The Grant proposed using deep packet inspection technology to make it possible for the Exchange to alter its configuration at Layer 3 and above, thus allowing government, healthcare, first responders and public safety traffic flows to have the greatest priority.

    All of this together, goes back to the point made in the article regarding The Fourth Utility. I believe the way we will get to The Fourth Utility is to combine the best efforts and practices of the public and private sectors. A good example of this is an international airport, or a port authority where all parties come together in their mutual interest and create something of greater value for themselves and the surrounding community.

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