Pacnet PEN rewrites capacity playbook

04 Nov 2013

ITEM: Pacnet has launched the beta version of an SDN-powered platform that allows its enterprise customers to buy capacity essentially the same way they buy public cloud services – pay-as-you-go.

Billed as “Pacnet Enabled Network (PEN)”, the service platform – launched in Hong Kong on Monday – allows customers to dynamically provision their own bandwidth, either via web portal Pacnet Connect or an API, based on their performance and QoS requirements.

They can create virtualized cross-connected environments, and they’re only billed for what they use (based on amount, quality and duration).

“What we’re really doing is taking all of our assets – our cable system, our data centers and the capabilities they have – using SDN to fully automate them, and then giving them to our customers through a GUI or API, allowing them to design and provision the networks that they want and use it to meet their business outcomes,” says Jim Fagan, president of managed services at Pacnet.

“If they want better latency or better QoS, they’ll pay a bit more, or if they want to use best effort, it allows them to make those trade-offs,” he adds. “And they’ll be able to see the value for the money they pay – if they increase the bandwidth or shorten the minimum period of time they want to run in, or change the latency features, they’ll literally see the price points change.”

The beta launch of PEN covers Pacnet’s PoPs in Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney and Melbourne. General availability of PEN is scheduled for Q1 next year, and Pacnet plans to expand the platform to all its PoPs before the end of next year.

“Demand and uptake will dictate how fast that goes,” Fagan notes.

Jon Vestal, Pacnet’s VP of product architecture, says PEN is starting off as a Layer 2 point-to-point offering, but that will expand as the service takes off over the next year.

“Feature-function enhancements for next year include any-to-any, scheduling bandwidth – so if you want to schedule this much bandwidth during this time period, Monday to Friday, you can do that – and adding more performance parameters,” Vestal says. “You can set your latency parameters now, and we’ll be adding jitter and packet loss so they can fine-tune a given app across their infrastructure.”

Vestal also says PEN will eventually be extended to Layer 1 for optical connectivity and Layer 3 for IP transit, DIA (dedicated internet access) and MPLS services.

While PEN leverages the SDN technology deployed in Pacnet’s self-owned network and data centers, that doesn’t mean customers can only use it within the network itself, Vestal notes.

“They can tie it into any network on the backend,” he says. “It’s the same challenge they have today in going off-network onto a local loop. But we don‘t have to take this data center-to-data center. We can go from a data center in Hong Kong to a patch panel in Singapore and connect it to the local loop.”

Applying the pay-as-you-go model to network capacity is an arguably disruptive move, especially when international capacity prices are already under pressure. But Fagan points out that PEN isn’t designed to serve the telecoms wholesale market (at least not yet), and that in any case the real disruption won’t come from pricing but from flexible service contracts.

“We’re trying to match how people move data today and how their apps move. They don’t always need that 1Gig circuit connected for a year – they may only need 300megs a night for doing nightly data back-ups,” he explains. “So let’s give them that flexibility. And SDN gives us the tools to manage that capacity and that network better.”

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