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Cloud exchange provider deploys Blue Planet orchestration

In this case study, a Denver-based colocation and cloud exchange provider explains how Ciena's Blue Planet orchestration technology has helped make over its cloud exchange.

By default, enterprise data centers connect to cloud-based services via the internet. But some organizations -- particularly those with hybrid, multi-cloud environments and lots of data -- eventually find they require greater throughput, lower latency and tighter security than internet connectivity can guarantee.

A cloud exchange provider -- using cloud data center interconnect (CDCI) technology -- aims to meet these needs by linking customers directly to their cloud service providers (CSPs), removing the internet as middleman.

In 2013, Denver-based CoreSite Realty Corp. became one of the first data center and colocation providers to debut a CDCI exchange platform, which it calls the Open Cloud Exchange (OCX). According to CoreSite, the OCX acts as a virtual gateway between its customers -- which include enterprises, network service providers and cloud service providers -- and leading public and private CSPs -- such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and Alibaba Cloud. Rather than obtaining and managing a separate direct connection with each individual CSP -- which is not always feasible, especially for small, regional organizations -- an enterprise can establish one-to-many connectivity via a single high-bandwidth pipe to the OCX platform.

CoreSite recently rolled out a redesigned, next-generation version of its OCX, built on Ciena Corp.'s Blue Planet orchestration technology -- vendor-agnostic, open software portfolio designed to enable the creation, deployment and automation of network services across the wide area network, data center and cloud.

According to CoreSite, the Blue Planet orchestrator underlies OCX's new on-demand portal, where users can quickly and easily spin up new connections to CSPs within the colocation ecosystem. The platform's network automation capabilities also allow customers to dynamically adjust the bandwidth allocated to specific providers, as fluctuating end-user demand dictates.

In this Q&A, Matt Senderhauf, director of product management at CoreSite, discusses more about how the colocation and cloud exchange provider deployed Blue Planet orchestration technology as the foundation for the updated OCX.

Who is the typical Open Cloud Exchange user?

Matt Senderhauf, director of product management, CoreSiteMatt Senderhauf

Matt Senderhauf: All the major public cloud providers are members, with a variety of organizations connecting to them via the OCX. We have small, medium and large enterprises that have adopted hybrid cloud and need the high-performance connections -- with guaranteed throughput and low latency -- that you don't necessarily receive when you connect to public clouds over the internet.

Another kind of customer [group] we've seen take off recently is network service providers that don't necessarily have partnerships with public clouds like AWS, Oracle and Microsoft. They're connecting to our OCX and then reselling services to their customers.

As a cloud exchange provider, what prompted CoreSite to explore Ciena's Blue Planet orchestration technology?

With our previous underlying technology, any changes we wanted to make were expensive and took a long time to implement.

Senderhauf: When we went to market in 2013, we really were kind of on the bleeding edge of this type of technology and this type of use case. In the last two years, we've really seen it take off, in terms of the number of connections, the variety of enterprises we're connecting and revenue. It's really grown exponentially as more enterprises are getting comfortable with utilizing public cloud and hybrid cloud solutions.

As demand grew, we knew we needed to maintain a nimble product offering to meet the fast pace of the cloud market -- with the ability to add new features and functionality quickly. With our previous underlying technology, any changes we wanted to make were expensive and took a long time to implement -- adding new cloud service providers or API updates, for example.

So, about two years ago, we started looking for another platform we could run the OCX on, and that's when we chose Blue Planet for its nimbleness and its ability to help us continue evolving as the market evolves. We liked that as a multi-domain orchestrator the Blue Planet technology can speak to a lot of different systems -- networking, monitoring, [configure, price, quote] software -- and make them all work together. It provides a foundation we can really build on. They set us up for success.

How else do you expect to use Blue Planet's automation capabilities?

Senderhauf: In terms of automation, the Blue Planet orchestration technology is able to communicate with all our different interconnection products, beyond OCX. That will really help our network engineering team in terms of provisioning. They will be able to turn up services in a much quicker and more automated fashion. That's something we'll benefit from internally as we evolve our products and our customer base, and our end users will see those benefits as well in terms of simplicity and ease of use.

Did you consider other products before landing on Blue Planet?

Senderhauf: We looked at seven or eight different companies, maybe more. We considered outsourcing the technology, looking at vendors that would just take over and do everything for us. Then we also looked at other companies like Ciena that would let us bring more of the development and functionality in-house.

We felt like having more control with an open software portfolio like Blue Planet would ultimately set us up for success in the future. We decided we didn't want to get stuck with another [software-defined networking]-type provider and be hamstrung and dependent on their development cycles.

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