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Revealed: The Interconnectivity Needs of Asia Pacific’s Hyperscale Data Centres

Robert Davidson, Head of Network Strategy - APAC
June 11, 2020

Hyperscale data centres in the Asia Pacific (APAC) need to use at least four submarine cables along each international route to provide the availability and reliability many organisations need, according to a groundbreaking new study by Digital Realty. In some cases, even this may not be enough to achieve the much sought-after 99.999 percent availability.

‘Five Nines’ availability is no longer just a target for data centres; it’s an expectation as many organizations seek fast, reliable access to critical business applications and data.

For cloud services and multinational enterprises, the interconnectivity between hyperscale data centres needs to be just as resilient and readily available as the facilities themselves. To determine the availability of this network across APAC, we analysed several databases with detailed information on the submarine cable routes that connect data centres across the globe.

The result is our study, Achieving the Ultimate Network Availability: Five Nines from a Hyperscale Data Centre. This report includes key stats on the number of repairs per year, outages (days per year), and the percentage of actual availability for each major international cable route in the region.

Resiliency Results

Our analysis shines a spotlight on some key characteristics of network resiliency dynamics in APAC. First, APAC systems share some similarities with those in South America and Africa, in that wet systems (including festoon systems*) are still quite widely used to provide connections to each country. That’s a marked contrast to the situation in North America, where the transport market almost exclusively utilises terrestrial (“dry”) fibre to connect major centres.

Nevertheless, we found that most APAC routes can offer greater than 90 percent availability. While this is a reasonably good result, it highlights the importance of using multiple (diverse) cables on each major route. That approach is crucial in maximising the resiliency of data centre networks, given the inevitability of submarine cable outages.

To this end, our study also reveals:

  • The number of diverse cables available for each major route
  • The number of diverse cables needed to achieve Five Nines
  • The maximum number of “nines” possible for each route

We also used two different approaches to analyse the cable routes to provide more robust findings.

Our analysis suggests that at least four diverse cables need to be used on most APAC routes to achieve Five Nines availability. However, that number varies depending on the reliability of the route. For example, routes with availability results of less than 90 percent typically need six or more diverse cables to reach that standard.

In fact, for some routes, such as Taiwan–Singapore, China–Singapore, and Indonesia–Hong Kong, it isn’t possible to achieve Five Nines availability, according to our analysis.

With other routes, however, it’s possible to exceed Five Nines availability. For example, you could do so on the Australia–Japan route with only its three available cables, due to its high (99.189 percent) availability score.

By contrast, one Hong Kong–Singapore route scored less than 90 percent, and our analysis suggests you would need to use six of its seven diverse cables to achieve Five Nines.

The Risks to Submarine Cables

We found that cable outages ranged from less than three days per year to more than 45 days. That’s may not be surprising considering the risks facing submarine cables. Fishing gear, ship anchors, dredging, bad weather, and natural disasters can cause damage.

The time needed to repair cables also varies significantly due to the availability of nearby ships and the travel distance. There are also complexities in the repairs needed and the time it takes to get permits from authorities to make them. Like the 2011 tsunami in Japan, damage from natural disasters can take a very long time to repair.

In addition, many of Asia’s cables are in relatively shallow waters and face much greater risks than deep-water cables. For example, cables in the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan, and the China Sea are damaged rather frequently by earthquakes, fishing, and other activities.

Building a Resilient Hyperscale Network

These factors make it vital for organisations to ensure their data centre networks have the resilience they need to provide the reliability their customers expect.

Our study provides an important starting point for those running or building hyperscale data centres in APAC. However, given the level of diversity needed for the Five Nines availability goal, our findings also show that a single-source or single-vendor approach will not be sufficient. Instead, this scenario lends itself to an ecosystem solution.

In other words, the easiest path to attaining a Five Nines solution deployment is through a data centre provider with a robust ecosystem of options. With a sufficient set of transport systems available, it’s possible to design the most resilient model, even if distributed across a set of vendor partners.

For organisations, it’s essential to find a data centre provider that can maximise the number of diverse routes across their digital networks. At Digital Realty, our PlatformDIGITAL solution enables customers to do that.

Available across more than 210 data centres in 15 countries and five continents, PlatformDIGITAL allows our customers to achieve the necessary performance, resiliency, and security requirements. They can also tap into our global ecosystem of more than 700 network and content providers, as well as 600 cloud and IT providers.

Plus, by deploying IT infrastructure at our data exchange centres around the world, we bring users, things, applications, clouds, and networks closer to the data. Our customers get the advantage of accessing a fit-for-purpose infrastructure that powers their digital transformations at the scale and speed they require today and into the future.

*Festoon systems are cable systems that “bounce” along the coast of a continent, connecting major cities together via a wet submarine cable. In many cases, these systems are used due to their cost advantages over purely terrestrial interconnections along the same routes.

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