Pacnet builds the first pan-Asian Network-as-a-Service architecture for carriers and enterprises with incredible efficiency gains.

Most data center customers need to dynamically allocate bandwidth to efficiently provide the exact network resources required by every user at any given time. This is critical to minimize latency in applications with large volumes of fast-moving data and to maintain high end-to-end performance in bandwidth-intensive applications, such as video, gaming and other multimedia. Doing so across data centers is challenging, especially if the data centers are geographically distributed and separated by an ocean.

Founded in 2008, Pacnet is Asia-Pacific’s leading provider of managed data connectivity solutions to major telecommunication carriers, large multinational enterprises and government entities. The company owns the region’s most extensive privately owned high-capacity undersea cable systems, with more than 46,000 km of fiber and connectivity to 18 interconnected data centers across 14 cities and 10 countries in Asia-Pacific.

Technical Challenges

With the rapid growth of cloud computing, carriers and enterprises are facing tremendous pressure to ensure reliable, high-performance networking services despite heavier traffic patterns and greater strain on network bandwidth for distributed computing operations.

Like many telecom providers, Pacnet had historically built out infrastructure that made provisioning a circuit for customers a multi-week process that included manually setting up switches, routers and other equipment. Customers were becoming more savvy and demanded more speed — in tasks ranging from provisioning circuits to allocating bandwidth.

Pacnet wanted to provide a flexible bandwidth solution utilizing SDN across multiple geographically distributed data centers to provide point-to-point connectivity between OpenStack clouds. They also needed deep expertise with on-demand SDN for OpenStack to shepherd a successful integration. After researching different options, distributions and comparing capabilities, Pacnet selected Mirantis OpenStack, along with integration services from Mirantis.

Solution Highlights

Customers work from the Pacnet Connect API, a self-service customer portal and Pacnet Enabled Network (PEN) UI, the network control plane powered by Mirantis OpenStack using Fuel, to dynamically provision network connectivity and bandwidth by calling the API with automation tools.

Pacnet’s SDN platform, known as the Pacnet Enabled Network or PEN, is the first pan-Asian Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) architecture available to carriers and enterprises. Pacnet can orchestrate multi-region application services in real time. With PEN, port-to-port connections can be provisioned in about four seconds, even between geographically distant data centers in different countries and continents. Carriers and enterprises can easily create a network of clouds throughout the Asia-Pacific region and the United States.

Flow Parameters such as bandwidth, latency, and duration are easy to customize, with pricing shown in real time.

“Traditionally, the carrier takes 15 to 20 days to provision a circuit. We would have cross-connects to put in, had to provision what’s in the middle, and had to get sales orders signed,” says Jon Vestal, VP of Product Architecture at Pacnet. With the new system, they can provision and de-provision circuits in seconds.

With PEN, carriers and enterprises can customize their own circuits on demand, instantaneously. For example, they can choose to decrease latency in a circuit for applications like high-frequency trading, VOIP or online gaming, which require fast response times; and to save costs, they can choose to increase for applications like email or bulk file transfer, which do not require the shortest route, almost on the fly.

A key advantage is that customers can dynamically provision bandwidth only when needed, even in hour-long increments, with pricing information in real time for different types of bandwidth. This flexibility especially benefits customers when using costlier bandwidth circuits for shorter transactions that might last only a few hours, such as workloads that burst large volumes of data in time-critical windows.

Traditional telecom providers usually require circuits to be provisioned for a period of at least 12 months, often leading to under-utilized or overpaid network capacity. “We’re giving control back to customers to provision the bandwidth and virtual circuit in the way that meets their particular needs,” Vestal says.

PEN also brings the financial benefits of highly-granular SLAs with just-in-time provisioning, bandwidth calendaring, and automatic path recalculation and failover. These capabilities enable “intelligent provisioning” of expensive WAN links between data centers and countries to ensure they are always fully utilized and monetized via software control of data flows associated with tiered SLAs between OpenStack clouds.

PEN is available in 11 data centers in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the US as of Q1 2014, followed by China by Q3 2014, and eventually expanding to all of the company’s interconnected data centers across the Asia-Pacific region.

VIDEO: Watch a demonstration of PEN at the Hong Kong OpenStack Summit at: