Avaya’s latest networking customer is a colocation startup that has ambitious plans to become a digital utility — the data center equivalent of the electrical grid.
Steel ORCA, based in Princeton, New Jersey, will use Avaya Fabric Connect, the vendor’s mesh architecture, at the heart of a Digital Utility Center opening later this year, the companies are announcing today. By the end of the year, Steel ORCA expects to be using Avaya’s software-defined networking (SDN) architecture, called Fx.
Steel ORCA wants to connect colocation centers so that they could, for example, feed electrical power to one another depending tenants’ fluctuating needs, with all the requisite billing occurring automatically.
The idea is that the colo will become the new enterprise, says Dennis Cronin, COO of Steel ORCA. You’ve heard this maxim before, in the form of the hybrid cloud. Like most cloud providers, Steel ORCA believes the enterprise will keep vital information in-house but will look to remote storage and compute for everything else.
At SDxCentral, we’ve looked at that idea from the cloud providers’ point of view. Steel ORCA and colo facilities in general are concerned with the physical infrastructure — aspects such as real estate, cooling, and electrical power. (Cloud services will soon get added to Steel ORCA’s offerings, Cronin says.)
The digital utility concept would let an enterprise tap multiple colo sites but receive one bill, Cronin says. Ideally, that bill would be consumption-based, allowing for the times when a tenant’s burst of activity pushes its needs into multiple colo facilities. “It’s going to take several years to get to that level of digital utility,” Cronin says.
The large-scale clouds — Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure — can already do this sort of thing. Steel ORCA envisions the digital utility center doing it “on a more generic basis and not proprietary,” Cronin says.
Steel ORCA was founded seven years ago and spent its first five years honing the concept and picking a site — a 42-acre, developed site that already had 378,000 square feet of space and access to 45 megawatts of power.
At the heart of Steel ORCA’s network will be Avaya switches: two core switches and two end-of-row switches to start. “That will rapidly grow over the next several months,” Cronin says.
The company picked Avaya for its scalability — the architecture had to support at least 12,000 racks of equipment without any forklift upgrades — and for its security features.
Steel ORCA was also picky about the openness of its architecture. Every vendor claims to be open, but Steel ORCA had a specific situation in mind; because it’s a co-location expert, it has to accommodate whatever equipment its customers want to use. “We don’t know what they’re going to walk in the door with in terms of switches,” Cronin says.
SDN-like features were important to Steel ORCA as well, because of the quick configuration changes the technology would allow. Cronin also expects new types of services to emerge based on SDN capabilities. “Call me in six months, and I’ll give you use cases,” he says.