Thursday, 30 May 2013

Noise Cancelling Fibre Takes Data to the Next Level

Last week we reported on new technology enabling data companies to send different "coloured" like beams through a fibre cable in order to reduce loss and speed up data transfer times. The company testing the fibre was able to achieve speeds of 800 Gbps over a very impressive distance. Today, we're happy to report another very impressive accomplishment out of a Bell Laboratories facility in New Jersey.

According to Nature Photonics, Dr. Xiang Liu and a team of researchers have figured out a way to transmit paired beams of light down a single optical fibre at a speed of 400 Gbps. Despite slower speeds as compared to the previous project, the advantage of their technology is the equivalent of what happens with a pair of noise cancelling earphones.

Dr. Liu's twin light beams carry the same data in the mirror images of one another. When the streams are received at the other end, the noise from one cancels out that of the other. The result is faster data speeds with far fewer data loss issues.

In addition to increased speed and reduced loss, the beams can also travel up to four times further than a single beam. This makes them ideal for transcontinental data communications. Researchers were able to achieve both speed and distance improvements by increasing the amount of power in the beams. Nevertheless, increased power generally results in increased noise. Thus, researchers introduced the twin beam concept to get rid of the noise.

The process of getting rid of the noise is known as phase conjugation. It relies on the simple concept of reproducing the same stream of data on opposite peaks and troughs of two identical light beams. When those two beams are brought together, the intersection of peaks and troughs clarifies the data while eliminating the noise.

Too Good to Be True?

Dr. Liu explains that the idea behind the new technology is actually surprisingly simple. So surprising, in fact, that he wondered aloud why it hadn't been tried before. But now that his team has proven noise can be undone through phase conjugation, it opens the door to incredible advances in fibre optics. The question now becomes how much power can be introduced to a light beam without destroying the fibre through which it is travelling.

We suspect the combination of this new research and multi-coloured light waves discussed earlier will revolutionise both fibre optics and unified communications. It should also usher in a completely new era of streaming data and "on demand" Internet. The two technologies answer the biggest needs of data transfer on a global scale.

As Dr. Liu correctly pointed out, the world is increasingly in need of ever-more data. Between individual consumers using it for personal and entertainment purposes, businesses conducting more and more of their daily activity online, and government agencies interdependent upon the Internet for global communications, this new technology comes at a very critical time. We are excited to see what follows...

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

British Airways appoint Norland for facilities maintenance

Norland, one of the UK and Ireland’s leading facilities, energy and project management companies has been appointed by British Airways to provide mechanical, electrical maintenance and grounds services at Heathrow. 

Norland's services will include the engineering facilities, Terminal 3 and 5, Gatwick, regional sites in Manchester and Newcastle as well as BA’s corporate offices and data centres.
Norland will provide a professionally-managed, high-quality, planned preventative maintenance service to increase asset life, reduce breakdowns and improve efficiencies. New processes and technology innovations will drive this change.

A key objective will be to deliver quality improvement across the contract and re-balance the maintenance regime from reactive to planned. Norland will be working to a set of internal and external customer service targets, health and safety indicators and financial goals. Specific environmental objectives have also been set including the need to reduce energy consumption by 5%.  

Steve Probert, British Airways Property Operations Manager, said: “The vision of the Facilities Management 2013 programme was to provide ‘best in class’ services across all FM operations, in a cost effective manner that delivers excellence to our internal and external customers.  The decision to appoint Norland to provide hard services supports this vision and provides flexible service provision and improved business processes. Norland clearly demonstrated how they will provide the value-add we need”.

Service delivery will be managed from a series of hubs tailored to the specific needs of each part of the estate portfolio. Each hub will consist of the skill-set and suite of procedures and technologies required for successful service delivery.

John Maidment, Group Services Director at Norland said: “The British Airways contract is varied and challenging. It’s public facing, has considerable security and safety considerations and a mix of passenger and cargo requirements, data centre environments, passenger terminals and office buildings. It’s the kind of contract we like because we really get to show the full extent of our capabilities”.

A central helpdesk will provide 24 hour, 7 day a week cover across the entire estate.

Friday, 24 May 2013

BT Test of Super-Channel a Great Success

British Telecom (BT) recently made a major breakthrough in data communications with the successful test of their 800 Gbps "super-channel" running between Ipswich and London. The successful test was demonstrated by the company's ability to send the equivalent of seven high definition DVDs across the channel in just one second. The data was sent between BT Tower and the company's research centre at Adastral Park.

To the casual observer, the announcement of the company's success may mean nothing more than the hope of faster streaming data in the near future. However, for those active in the industry, it is a monumental breakthrough given what was previously thought to be the limitations of optical fibre networks.

As a case in point, BT purposely made the test as difficult as possible by using a fibre network previously believed to be incapable of carrying even 10 Gbps. The fibre’s high polarisation mode dispersion presents a special challenge in dispersing different polarisations of light. Nevertheless, BT used a new technique known as dense wave division multiplex (DWDM) to send 100, 200, and 400 Gbps signals over the fibre in addition to the 800 Gbps super-channel.

The technology works around poor PMD performance by sending data using different light wavelengths all in the same stream. The different wavelengths can be combined into a single unified stream without any reduction in speed or data loss. The technology has the potential to completely revolutionize long-distance data communications.

Keep in mind the long-distance angle is important here. The whole idea behind optical fibre is to increase data communications performance over long distances in order to facilitate higher capacity global data transfers. The BT test has proven it can be done, at least in concept. Now they need to scale it to the real world.

From an economic standpoint, the test also goes a long way in proving BT's current fibre optic network will not require drastic overhauling in order to be ready for the high-speed future of data communications. Fibre cables now in place will be able to handle the new signal with high-tech transceivers at each end. For this test, BT used WaveLogic 3 transceivers from Ciena. Just for the record, they performed admirably.

Gradual Adoption Is the Plan

BT also revealed that their tests proved they could send streams of different speeds over the same fibre simultaneously, without any loss. The test verified what BT has been hoping for; a network that would provide for gradual adoption as the company rolls out its new technology. There will be no need to use extra fibres or drastically change current networks.

The gradual adoption approach will save both BT and its customers significant amounts of money while also reducing the combined carbon footprint. The only question now is how long will it be before BT begins a large-scale rollout. More tests undoubtedly need to be done before that happens. However, make no mistake, the super-channel is here - and not a moment too soon.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Last of the Olympic Venues Filled by iCity

A triumphant London mayor held a news conference late last week to announce the signing of a deal between the London Legacy Development Corporation and iCity, a consortium put together to develop and promote the digital and creative industries in the UK. iCity will take control of the remaining empty space at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Mayor Boris Johnson announced the deal, visibly gloating about the city's accomplishment in light of a constant stream of scepticism and criticism. Johnson said, "many people thought [filling the empty Olympic venues] would never happen.” He said he expected the "white flags" of surrender would be offered by the plan's critics in the near future.

Once iCity takes over the space early next year, it is expected that tenants moving in will generate up to £450 million to the local and national economies while creating as many as 4,500 local jobs. Experts suggest an additional 2,000 jobs could be created outside London. Given that the total investments in the project to date have exceeded £1 billion, iCity had better hope their plans are realised in full.

Thus far, roughly 40% of the eight venues are spoken for. Tenants set to move in next year include Loughborough University and Hackney Community college. Mayor Johnson spoke glowingly about both institutions during his remarks last week. He called their leases a "stunning achievement."

In addition to the two educational entities, a new technology hub is expected to host the largest and most efficient data centre in the UK. It should easily be one of the top data centres in all of Europe once complete. It is expected that iCity officials will work together with the UK government to attract big-name clients like Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

As it stands, Ireland is the preferred spot for IT businesses in the region. iCity and the city of London aim to change that.

The Ultimate in Re-purposing

Over the last several months, we've published several blog posts talking about data centres and IT companies re-purposing old buildings for new facilities. Nevertheless, the iCity deal takes re-purposing to the next level. The former Olympic venues being utilised were originally designed for the event's broadcasting needs, so much of the infrastructure is already in place for technology companies.

It should be very easy for iCity to transform the space to make it suitable for IT services, hosting and colocation, and large-scale server applications. Once home to one the world's biggest sporting exhibition events, the venues will soon be home to the UK's burgeoning technology sector.

The plans for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park are part of a greater scheme intended to make London the centre of technology and digital creativity in Europe. There are exciting new projects going on all over the city along with others in outlying areas. We fully expect the UK to continue on this course into the foreseeable future - something that's good for everyone in the country.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Aussie Government Aborts Internet Filter Plan

In a recent surprising turnaround, the Australian government announced that it is cancelling a plan to require the nation's Internet service providers to provide ISP-level filtering. In making the announcement, government sources claim aborting the plan will save taxpayers some AUS$4.5 million over the next few years.

The original plan called for Australian ISPs to deploy filters that would prevent end users from accessing any content deemed by the government as "refused classification." That classification simply refers to content that has not been approved under the country's current rating system as determined by the national Classification Board. Pornography, racism, child abuse and other types of offensive material would obviously fall under that classification.

As an alternative, Australian ISPs will only be required to implement the established Interpol filter. The switch ostensibly saves the Australian government money because they will not have to develop their own filtering system. Whether or not the financial savings is the real reason behind aborting the plan is unclear.

Opposition Was Clear

When the government originally announced the plan, they immediately came under heavy criticism for requiring something that would be both unworkable and tantamount to Internet censorship. Opposition to the plan was well organised and put tremendous pressure on government officials. It even became a hot topic during the most recent Australian elections.

Even as the argument raged, the government began developing recommendations for rating systems and the filter. Now that the plan has been scrapped, all of that work will be set aside in favour of the Interpol list included in the Telecommunications Act.

For now, an Australian government Internet filter seems to be dead. A collective sigh of relief can now be shared among data centres, hosting companies, and ISPs all across the country. Hopefully the plan will not be resurrected again in the future.

Beware of Censorship

Despite the Australian government's insistence that the filter plan was not an attempt at censorship, it can be argued that censorship is always the inevitable result of such filtering. It cannot happen any other way. When a government entity determines what content can, and cannot, be viewed by Internet users they are engaged in a practice that is universally despised among free nations.

That's not to say Internet filtering is not appropriate. It is. However, it is the responsibility of ISPs and content hosters, not government entities. In an era when cloud computing and high-speed data communications are proliferating, government-enforced filtering opens too many doors for those who would seek to use the technology to control thought. And that is never good.

As for the financial savings the Australian government will enjoy by scrapping the plan, perhaps a good use for the money is to continue fighting cybercrime. If enforcement and prosecution efforts are maximised they are ultimately the best way to make sure the Internet remains a safe place for everyone. It also remains a place where free thinking continues to abound... and that's always good.