Lumen, Google, Microsoft unveil new optical networking platform

Lumen has teamed up with Google and Microsoft to launch ExaSwitch, a platform service providers and enterprises can use to quickly route traffic between networks without third-party intervention.

ExaSwitch users will be able to connect their edge sites, data centers and central offices to the platform. With a self-service portal, they can set up connections in 400G increments, which can then be consumed on demand in 100G increments.

Lumen, the administrator for the initial ExaSwitch deployments, will be responsible for installing optical hardware at the location of each participant. Users can choose their own fiber source for connecting into ExaSwitch, which they can do either via the self-service portal or an application programming interface (API) portal managed by Lumen.

Andrew Dugan, Lumen’s chief technology officer, noted in a statement “the days of slow, legacy cross connects are over.”

"Large network backbones no longer need a physical location to connect. Instead, optical switching will be used to establish high-capacity optical links between metro sites,” he said. Sites connected to ExaSwitch will be capable of up to 25.6 Tbps of optical cross connects.

ExaSwitch is currently available in Chicago, Dallas and Virginia – three of the largest interconnection hubs in the U.S., according to Lumen. The operator eventually plans to roll out the platform to more major markets across North America.

“And it's so much more than just internet peering; it's an on-demand network connection for quickly deploying needed capacity across all types of data traffic exchanges,” Dugan added.

Those that have already signed up for ExaSwitch include Lumen, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure along with “an additional large cloud provider.”

"We like the ease, speed and cost efficiency of performing interconnects to network partners directly from our main sites," stated Steve Walter, Google Cloud’s VP of network operations. “ExaSwitch provides an agile, on-demand platform using proven technology that achieves that.”

The launch of ExaSwitch comes as Lumen works to bolster its enterprise business. In May, the company hired Kye Prigg, a veteran of Ericsson and Rogers Communications, to lead enterprise operations.

On the optical networking front, Lumen earlier this year completed 400G wavelength upgrades covering 70 U.S. markets. The company’s SVP of Core Network Solutions told Fierce in January a single 400G wave requires only two cross-connects, which offers “huge cost benefits for the customers.”