Eurofiber, owner/operator of a 36,000KM fiberoptic network covering the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France while stretching into Germany, has started optimizing its network infrastructure. To this end, fiberoptic rings will be rolled out in large parts of Belgium in the coming period, says Hessel Idzenga, manager of design and architecture at Eurofiber.

For its digital infrastructure in Belgium, Eurofiber partly uses the fiberoptic networks of Infrabel, the Belgian railroad manager. Over the course of time, Infrabel has built its nationwide fiberoptic network along the railroads, often via catenary portals.

“The cables usually end up in Infrabel’s premises,” said Hessel Idzenga. “Our technicians are not always quick to go there to weld fiberoptic cables for customers, for example. That’s why we move the connection points for the fiber optic cables to cabinets outside Infrabel’s buildings. That is the first part of the optimization process.”

Aggregated Network Infrastructure

The second step in the optimization of Eurofiber’s Belgian digital infrastructure is of a more technical nature.

“Fifteen years ago, Infrabel opted for a particular fiberoptic technology, Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH),” added Mr. Idzenga.  “Nowadays, it does not offer enough scalability when it comes to bandwidth. To give an example, the maximum bandwidth is now 300 Mbit/s. That is why we are going to install separate fiber optic cables in parallel on Infrabel’s infrastructure. We offer Ethernet services for this, using a DWDM underlayer. The connections normally go from point to point, but we build this in rings in order to be able to offer redundancy to our customers. This way we are able to offer our customers an SLA like we are used to.”

“This also applies to the maximum bandwidth,” added Mr. Idzenga. “This runs up to – both Ethernet and internet access – 2 Gb/s. We call this an ‘aggregated network infrastructure’. Incidentally, the network nodes are housed in new street cabinets that meet the most modern requirements in terms of equipment, redundancy, cooling and, of course, security.”

The optimization of Eurofiber’s Belgian digital infrastructure has already started, says Idzenga. The entire preliminary process, from concept to hardware selection, has been completed. It’s a great collaboration between our Infra department, which is responsible for fiber optics and cabinets, our Network Operator department, which deals with the active network, and of course the Belgian and Dutch Eurofiber organizations. By the end of this year we want to be live with one to two rings. The roll-out sequence will then depend in part on specific customer questions.

Sharp Increase in Internet Traffic

Since the beginning of the corona crisis, in early March 2020, Eurofiber has seen a major shift inInternet traffic. “This was partly due to the compulsory working from home and the switch to video conferencing instead of physically meeting each other,” recalls Casper Gondelach, technical product manager at Eurofiber. “We are constantly looking at where Internet traffic is going on our nationwide fiberoptic network. This way we can see whether it can be made more efficient and where any bottlenecks are likely to arise. In March, we noted that the peak in data traffic was mainly visible at a few specific network nodes and the public cloud platforms of major providers such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

Direct Peering with Cloud Platforms

Hessel Idzenga
“Fifteen years ago, Infrabel opted for a particular fiberoptic technology, Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH). Nowadays, it does not offer enough scalability when it comes to bandwidth,” said Hessel Idzenga, manager of design and architecture at Eurofiber.

The sharp increase in data traffic to the cloud platforms has prompted Eurofiber to further optimize its Internet services, including Direct Internet Peering.

“The bottom line is that we have taken out all the intermediate stations by making direct fiberoptic connections with the networks of the providers of the large public cloud platforms,” said Pierre Maron, Internet services product manager, Eurofiber. “That connection goes via the so-called ‘private peering’ principle: we physically connect our fiberoptic to a port of the cloud providers. This enables us to offer even better performance and ensure that latency is minimal, in other words that the response time for the cloud applications is optimal. Since data traffic doesn’t go to the cloud via a detour on the Internet, the risks of cyber threats, such as DDoS attacks, are more limited.”

For organizations that want even higher data security or bandwidth guarantees, Eurofiber offers an alternative service: Secure Cloud Connect.

“As the name suggests, we then provide a secure connection between the client locations and the cloud platforms,” added Mr. Maron. “That connection is completely separate from the public internet. It is an ideal solution for organizations that, for example, work with privacy-sensitive information. In the past, a company only had access to a large network pipe, the public internet, through which everything went. Nowadays you can make a conscious choice: ‘just’ via the Internet to the cloud or completely separated from the Internet to the cloud platforms.”