Interview: Kamran Sistanizadeh of Reliance Globalcom

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Reliance Globalcom seeks vendors to upgrade longhaul ethernet services to 100 gigabits

Kamran Sistanizadeh was CTO of ethernet operator Yipes and is now CTO of Reliance Globalcom that took it over three years ago to add to Flag Telecom and later Vanco. Now he’s talking to equipment vendors about ways to boost speeds of his integrated network to 100 gigabits a second as wholesale and enterprise customers demand more and more capacity

Kamran Sistanizadeh: a handful of suppliers have
field-deployable prototypes of 100 gigabit equipment
that we can test

Kamran Sistanizadeh is looking for a vendor for 100 gigabit ethernet equipment. As CTO of international carrier Reliance Globalcom he expects to have a number of vendors pitching to him as he follows his plan to speed up the company’s complex and extensive international network.
“I’m looking at 100 gigabit ultra-longhaul technology, and 40 gigabit ultra-longhaul for submarine cables,” says Sistanizadeh. “We want to create enhanced capacity without changing cables. The future is 100 gigabits.”
At the same time Sistanizadeh is re-engineering three separate networks that Reliance owns into a single seamless system. He used to be CTO of Yipes, a US-only ethernet carrier, which is where he was when Global Telecoms Business interviewed him in 2005.
A couple of years earlier Reliance Infocomm bought Flag Telecom for $207 million, a year after Flag had gone into US bankruptcy protection. It was Reliance’s first move into international communications. In 2007 Reliance’s Flag bought Yipes in an all-cash deal worth $300 million. And the following year Reliance rescued UK-based virtual network operator Vanco, which was close to collapse.
That has given Reliance Globalcom, to use its current international brand, three networks to put together. “We’re consolidating them all into one seamless network. They all had their own silo networks,” says Sistanizadeh.
Reliance Globalcom covers everything “from layer one up to application optimisation”, he says. “We have a full service network” with enterprise customers and wholesale telecoms customers. “Not consumers.” A sister company in the Reliance Communications group is a mobile operator in India’s highly competitive market.

Wholesale customers

It’s Reliance’s wholesale and enterprise customers that are creating pressure for speeds to be increased on the cables. “We can’t pull up the cables,” says Sistanizadeh, so the company wants to replace the boxes at each end. “We’re looking at 40-100 gigabits a second DWDM. I’m very excited about 100 gigabits per wavelength. We want to incorporate that into our heavy traffic routes. Our network now is 10-40 gigabits but the future is 100 gigs.”
Reliance Globalcom has not picked a vendor yet for the equipment, he says. “We are doing field trials.”
The main supplier “for a long time” has been Infinera, he notes. “But we are talking to all of them”, including the Nortel division that is now part of Ciena. “A handful of suppliers have a field-deployable prototype that we can test.”
Testing will take “a few weeks to a few months”, but it will be nine to 12 months before the technology is at a level to support customers, he adds.
The former Yipes has deep knowledge of the sort of integrated optics that can deliver high speed networks, and that means Sistanizadeh knows what he’s looking for. “We are working with suppliers to give us low latency switches fabricated with dense 10-gig ports,” he says. “We want scalability, low latency, and quality of service and class of service for enterprise applications.”
The market’s demands have changed since GTB last interviewed Sistanizadeh. “Then a millisecond of latency was fast enough. Now people want microseconds,” he says. “It’s all driven by the applications.” Financial transactions need latency of under 100 microseconds, he says, “and lots of money runs on our network”, including machine-to-machine communications in the markets of Wall Street and Chicago. “They have to be done with the lowest latency.”

Bandwidth and latency

Sistanizadeh’s challenge is that enterprise customers vary widely in nature. “For example, there are customers with 1,000 sites and low requirements for bandwidth and latency. And there are some with 100 sites who need high bandwidth and very low latency. All have to be provided for.” That means the network has to be designed to cater for all variations.
“These are global accounts and all have different requirements. That’s one of those challenges that is unique for a facilities-based service provider.”
On top of that the company has to deliver applications. “How many applications and what is the prioritisation?” There are applications such as Citrix — for remote access to office networks — that have to run in real time. “This is a massive integration challenge and opportunity.” For the past few years “talk has been about bandwidth, scalability and ubiquity.” But now the focus is moving to “application awareness, optimisation and real-time control”, he says. “Those ideas are emerging.”
Sistanizadeh is responsible for the technology, the architecture, the engineering and the implementation. Reliance has network operations centres around the world — in Mumbai, Denver and London — as well as a number of back-up NOCs.
Vanco, one of the elements of the series of mergers that went to create Reliance Globalcom, was not a facilities-based operator: it made a point of being a virtual provider, buying capacity around the world as customers needed it. But “it did have assets for the aggregation of traffic, coming into central points in different countries” and “we are consolidating those with what Flag and Yipes had”.
The aim of Sistanizadeh and his colleagues running Reliance Globalcom is “one network that can offer all services”. A converged optical platform offers the hope of just that: “Now you are talking about one major technology that gives the whole set of services,” he says.
The questions then are how to manage the service offering. “Business process integration and lifecycle integration come into the picture. It’s not just about changing the boxes and the technology but about revisiting the processes. So we are looking at the ecosystem of support. How do we simplify our customer’s life, providing a seamless service?”

Customer empowerment

So he is wanting Reliance Globalcom to have a portal from which customers can manage their contracts, services and costs. “It’s what I call customer empowerment.”
That applies to Reliance’s wholesale activities as well, he says. “If we can do all this for enterprise we can provide a subset for our wholesale customers. But the notion of wholesale has to be redefined. We deal with content providers, major applications providers — those customers are equivalent to wholesale customers.”
There is, he says, a “legacy definition” of wholesale that is no longer accurate “in the new world of major content providers”.
It’s content that is driving demand and — as well as looking for ways to increase speeds on existing cables — Reliance Globalcom is investing in new cable systems, on routes such as southern Europe to north Africa. “The corridor from Egypt to southern Europe to London has very strong demand and we are building a brand new cable system.” It will be in operation in the second half of 2011, he adds.
Reliance has played a significant role in the consolidation of international operations in the past few years — as has its Indian rival, Tata. Does Sistanizadeh expect further consolidation?
“Generically, yes,” he says. “But it has to make sense case by case. Consolidation is the more efficient way of doing business.”
It is, he adds, “a necessity not a nicety” and the rationale of larger operations “will persuade companies to get together to find the best ways of serving their customers. That will navigate the industry to a trend of consolidation.”
Customer requirements are driving consolidation, he emphasises. “The global economy is becoming global. The world is one place. I look at this as an opportunity. It creates efficiency, brings new functionality.”

Service awareness

But that itself creates new issues for equipment providers, as Reliance Globalcom and its rivals demand smarter and smarter equipment in the network. “Intelligence about services are going to be more and more pushed into the devices,” he says. “We will create and manage the service attributes within the box itself. Operators will ask: ‘How service-aware is this box?’ Service awareness is going to be the next goal of equipment manufacturers to compete with each other.”
It will be necessary for separate services “to give a unified view to all service providers”, he says, “so that Reliance Globalcom and all providers can use the boxes in a similar manner”. Those requirements will “define the next two to five years”, he adds.
So when Sistanizadeh and his colleagues talk to Ciena, Infinera and other equipment providers about the next, huge upgrade of Reliance Globalcom’s network, they will know something of what to expect. GTB