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February 2, 2024

Technology

Transforming Data Center Connectivity with NTT's Advanced Optical Technology

As our reliance on artificial intelligence and digital services grows, so does our need for data centers. These centers, which store and manage vast amounts of information, have traditionally been packed into urban areas. Advancements in technology, however, have led to a significant enhancement in the capabilities of DWDM transceivers, offering increased transmission capacity, smaller sizes, and improved energy efficiency. DWDM transceivers are devices in fiber optic networks that both transmit and receive data, using Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing technology to send multiple data streams simultaneously over a single fiber, each on a different wavelength.

One result of this technology breakthrough is that data centers are now moving to suburban areas where there is more space and less risk of disasters. This change, however, brings a new challenge: ensuring these geographically scattered centers can communicate quickly and reliably.

Enter the new technology developed by NTT, NEC Corporation, the Politecnico di Torino, Columbia University, Duke University, and Dublin University. It addresses the challenge head-on by streamlining the way data centers connect. Think of it as upgrading from a two-lane road to a high-speed highway, allowing data to travel much faster and more efficiently than before.

NTT and NEC's new Data Center Exchange (DCX) automates the setting of optical wavelength paths, a process essential for data center exchanges. Optical wavelength path design involves planning how data travels through fiber-optic networks using light. Different colors of light (wavelengths) carry separate data streams in the same cable, increasing the amount of information transmitted simultaneously and using the network's capacity efficiently, enhancing data communication speed and volume. DCX, by reducing the data center transfer setup time from hours to minutes, promises not only increased efficiency, but also enhanced capacity and reduced latency in connections.

How does it happen? DCX uses a smart algorithm that calculates the best path for data to travel. This calculation takes into account various factors that can affect data transmission, like the quality of the optical signals and the types of equipment being used. It's akin to a GPS system that finds the fastest route for your car, considering traffic, roadworks, and other conditions.

The technology works. Practical implementation has already been carried out using a Linux-based open platform, integrating various open interface architecture tools. Field validation was conducted with the help of university partners on the NSF COSMOS testbed in Manhattan, simulating the DCX service and proving its efficiency.

Looking ahead, NTT and NEC aim to strengthen the performance of their DCX technology and push for its standardization. By streamlining and accelerating the setup of optical wavelength paths, data centers will be able to adapt more quickly to changing connectivity demands, particularly crucial for large-scale, decentralized data center operations and expected to have far-reaching implications for telecommunications and IT infrastructures worldwide. Offering the promise of a future where our digital infrastructure is more robust, reliable, and ready to handle the growing demands of our connected world.

NTT—Innovating the Future

Picture: Daniel O'Connor

Daniel O'Connor joined the NTT Group in 1999 when he began work as the Public Relations Manager of NTT Europe. While in London, he liaised with the local press, created the company's intranet site, wrote technical copy for industry magazines and managed exhibition stands from initial design to finished displays.

Later seconded to the headquarters of NTT Communications in Tokyo, he contributed to the company's first-ever winning of global telecoms awards and the digitalisation of internal company information exchange.

Since 2015 Daniel has created content for the Group's Global Leadership Institute, the One NTT Network and is currently working with NTT R&D teams to grow public understanding of the cutting-edge research undertaken by the NTT Group.