During Upgrade 2024, NTT Corporation (NTT) and NTT DATA showcased the successful demonstration of All-Photonics Network (APN)-driven hyper-low-latency connections between data centers situated in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the U.K., NTT interconnected data centers located north and east of London through NTT’s Innovative Optical Wireless Network (IOWN) APN, achieving communication with a round-trip delay of less than 1 millisecond. Similarly, in the U.S., data centers in Northern Virginia attained comparable results. The main objective of NTT APN deployment is to have geographically dispersed IT  infrastructure acting as a singular data center.

Dr. Yosuke Aragane, Vice President of the IOWN Development Office, NTT Corporation, presenting the new APN configuration in the UK and USA at Upgrade 2024 on April 10, 2024

The data center market faces significant local challenges. Restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions and scarcity of land have made constructing data centers in urban areas difficult, leading operators to switch to suburban areas. However, with data centers spread over long distances, communication delay and high latency can become significant, making it a major roadblock to meeting customers’ demands for low latency. 

During the experiment for proof of concept, NTT and NTT DATA interconnected data centers in the U.K. (HH2 in Hemel Hempstead and LON1 in Dagenham) and in the U.S. (VA1 and VA3 in Ashburn) using APN equipment from NEC. These U.K. and U.S. data centers are separated by distances of 89km and 4km, respectively. Measurements conducted over 100 Gbps and 400 Gbps links demonstrated that the two APN-connected data centers in the U.K. operated with less than 1 millisecond (approximately 0.9 milliseconds) of latency, with a delay variation of less than 0.1 microseconds. Comparatively, cloud connectivity provider Megaport states that the typical delay between data centers at a similar distance exceeds 2,000 microseconds (2 milliseconds). 

In the U.S. scenario, the delay over the much shorter span was approximately 0.06 milliseconds, with a delay variation of less than 0.05 microseconds. By contrast, conventional networks employing general Layer 2 switches experience delay variation ranging from several microseconds to tens of microseconds. In essence, the APN reduces latency by half and jitter by orders of magnitude.

The APN is not just a technological advancement, but a solution that meets the needs of various industries. It delivers the extremely low latency necessary for current and emerging use cases, including distributed, real-time AI analysis (such as industrial IoT and predictive maintenance), smart surveillance systems, smart grid and energy management, and natural disaster detection and response, among others. NTT DATA is also conducting demonstrations in the financial sector, where low latency is crucial for remittances, settlements, and transactions. An additional advantage of the IOWN APN is its capability to activate lines simply by adding wavelengths, removing the need to install new dark fiber. It enables data center operators to respond to customer demand with the speed of light.

Dr. Yosuke Aragane, Vice President of the IOWN Development Office, NTT Corporation, explaining the new All-Photonics Network (APN) technology

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