Alessan­dro Talotta, chair­man and CEO, Sparkle, has been busy im­ple­ment­ing its state of the art data cen­tre - the Si­cily Hub. Bill Boyle talks to him about strat­egy

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Alessan­dro Talotta, Sparkle, on the dis­rup­tive Si­cily Hub data cen­tre

Si­cily Hub is Sparkle’s next gen­er­a­tion data cen­tre in Palermo and is one of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s key projects. Lo­cated closer to North Africa and the Mid­dle East than any other Euro­pean peer­ing point, and con­nected to all the ca­ble land­ing sta­tions in Si­cily, it is served by Sparkle’s tier 1 grade IP tran­sit ser­vice, Se­abone. In­au­gu­rated in May 2015, Si­cily Hub is rapidly be­com­ing not only the lead­ing IP cen­tre of grav­ity in the Mediter­ranean basin but also a rich ecosys­tem and mar­ket place, of multi-breed in­ter­con­nected play­ers, cater­ing to the needs of play­ers in Africa and the Mid­dle East.

Talotta said: “The po­si­tion­ing of the Si­cily Hub was not ac­ci­den­tal. We have opened a new point-of-pres­ence (POP) in Iran and this re­gion of the world is of great busi­ness sig­nif­i­cance. At the mo­ment we pro­vide 20% of the to­tal IP pres­ence in Iran. We have been pre­par­ing for a long time and lo­cally our POP will have a re­dun­dant con­nec­tion from the North and from the South through sub­ma­rine ca­bles land­ing in Chaba­har.”

“We have an open ap­proach in or­der to give our part­ners as many op­tions as pos­si­ble. The goal of our part­ners is to in­crease their broad­band mar­kets. In Iran our vi­sion is to be a stable pres­ence and to sup­port our part­ner in be­com­ing a strong hub and the cen­tre of strong relationships for the whole re­gion of Iraq, Afghanistan, Aszerb­h­jan and Pakistan. We have a strate­gic ad­van­tage in the area over many new­com­ers and we have been part­ner­ing for longer.”

“So we are also tak­ing our first steps from the Si­cily Hub to­wards the African con­ti­nent, Ide­ally I would like to have some of our other ser­vices ready to in­stall, such as our cloud plat­form, how­ever, we are ready to part­ner and ex­pect growth to be steady,” he says.

Driv­ing open stan­dards

Si­cily Hub’s open con­fig­u­ra­tion sup­ports Car­ri­ers and ISPS that want to im­prove the ef­fi­ciency and en­hance the re­dun­dancy of their net­works while en­joy­ing a rich ecosys­tem and mar­ket­place of multi-breed in­ter­con­nected play­ers.

Sparkle has al­ways held open stan­dards to be im­por­tant. Talotta says: “We are a driv­ing force in MEF - we are on the board of di­rec­tors. MEF has over 210 mem­bers, ven­dors, and op­er­a­tors help­ing this $80 bil­lion Car­rier Eth­er­net mar­ket pro­duce prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions. The most im­por­tant part of net­work im­prove­ment is mak­ing sure that ser­vice-de­liv­ery be­comes eas­ier and that stan­dards in multi-do­main net­works are strongly en­forced. For ex­am­ple - when we are build­ing a net­work from Italy to South Amer­ica as long as they have MEF cer­ti­fi­ca­tions we should the­o­ret­i­cally be able to do it with fewer prob­lems, that is the goal at the mo­ment.”

Proofs of con­cept

Sparkle is work­ing within the MEF on im­ple­ment­ing soft­ware de­fined net­work­ing (SDN) and net­work func­tions vir­tu­al­i­sa­tion (NFV), specif­i­cally the con­ver­gence of these into one in­ter­face that will al­low the easy or­ches­tra­tion of ser­vices such as BSS and OSS which will fi­nally con­verge and in­ter­op­er­ate.

The next MEF event in Novem­ber this year will see Com­cast, ECI, Tata Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Sparkle and Vi­avi demon­strate proof-of-con­cept de­liv­ery on au­to­mated de­liv­ery of dy­namic, band­width-on-de­mand ser­vices via an or­ches­trated multi-car­rier, multi-plat­form so­lu­tion en­abling cloud-based ap­pli­ca­tions and con­nec­tiv­ity. Sparkle will have a multi-car­rier proof of con­cept ready to launch in the first quar­ter of next year.

Talotta says that re­search and de­vel­op­ment are im­per­a­tive to al­low the com­pany to plan its next-gen­er­a­tion net­work well-ahead, this is why the TIM

test lab­o­ra­to­ries em­ploy over 1,000 en­gi­neers. Talotta has an in­ter­est­ing view on the way the en­ter­prise is chang­ing to ac­com­mo­date the huge dis­rup­tion which is ap­proach­ing. He says: “We are find­ing that se­cu­rity for en­ter­prises is only a bar­rier for the older style chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer (CIO). The new com­pany is adopt­ing a new ap­proach with the rise of the new chief rev­enue of­fi­cer (CRO) who has to man­age not just the op­er­a­tions side of the busi­ness but also match the ap­pli­ca­tions and all pro­cesses and the evo­lu­tion of the pro­cesses in­ter­nally and as they emerge into the mar­ket place. This shows the con­ver­gence of the vi­sion for the busi­ness and the tech­nol­ogy plan­ning to take the vi­sion to mar­ket.”

Talotta gives me an ex­am­ple in the trans­port mar­ket: “With all their apps run­ning , let’s say, in Lon­don, a CIO in Italy of­ten has to guar­an­tee real-time con­nec­tiv­ity for tick­et­ing on­line. He needs to un­der­stand all of the prob­lems in real-time - for ex­am­ple, if there is a sud­den huge surge for ca­pac­ity and he has to de­liver the ap­pli­ca­tion and the whole ser­vice end to end. These are real-time man­age­ment prob­lems.” Sparkles’ part­ner­ship with the world’s lead­ing in­ter­net ex­change provider, DE-CIX, is very im­por­tant to them, says Talotta. DE-CIX op­er­ates car­rier-neu­tral and data cen­ter-neu­tral in­ter­net ex­changes around the world, in­clud­ing its flag­ship ex­change in Frank­furt.

The Si­cily Hub ex­change, for ex­am­ple, based on DE-CIX’S lead­ing APOLLON plat­form which pro­vides “un­ri­valed scal­a­bil­ity and per­for­mance.”

DE-CIX’S new ex­change at Si­cily Hub has been de­signed to al­low car­ri­ers that land their IP back­bones in Si­cily to di­rectly in­ter­con­nect with each other and to other providers that have a pres­ence in the fa­cil­ity. These providers in­clude some of the world’s best-known and largest con­tent play­ers.

The part­ner­ship with DE-CIX and their new IX node in Si­cily Hub al­lows Sparkle to bet­ter serve ISPS in the area, in­clud­ing Africa and the Mid­dle East, by bring­ing world­wide con­tent di­rectly to their doorsteps. The pres­ence of DE-CIX’S global car­rier-neu­tral in­ter­net ex­change - as well as the most rel­e­vant global con­tent providers that de­liver me­dia, gam­ing, e-com­merce, so­cial net­works and video plat­forms - make Si­cily Hub the best lo­ca­tion for top-qual­ity and cost-ef­fi­cient pub­lic and pri­vate peer­ing in the re­gion, Talotta says.

Namex and TOPIX, have placed them­selves in the Si­cily Hub pro­vid­ing al­ter­na­tive pub­lic peer­ing so­lu­tions.

Talotta says: “This part­ner­ship be­tween Sparkle and DE-CIX in Palermo has been very suc­cess­fully repli­cated in Is­tan­bul, Turkey, where global con­tent is made avail­able through pub­lic peer­ing, a ma­jor turn­ing point for the lo­cal and ad­ja­cent mar­kets.”

Ma­jor con­tent providers


Talotta says: “Another ma­jor mile­stone is the land­ing in Si­cily Hub of some of the world’s most prom­i­nent con­tent providers. Si­cily Hub cus­tomers can now in­ter­con­nect and di­rectly peer with these ma­jor CPS in Palermo gain­ing ac­cess to the world’s best con­tent.

“Global Cloud Xchange has ex­panded its foot­print with a mul­ti­ser­vice POP in the Palermo fa­cil­ity. Like many, GCX sees the Mediter­ranean port as a grow­ing nexus be­tween the net­works of Europe, north­ern Africa, and the Mid­dle East.”

Sparkle was the first to in­tro­duce the 100 Gbps IP tran­sit con­nec­tiv­ity in the Mid­dle East. The new tech­nol­ogy, adopted first by Saudi Telecom in 2015 out of the Si­cily Hub, rep­re­sents an un­equalled through­put ca­pa­bil­ity and ef­fec­tively in­creases the num­ber of Saudi Telecom’s eye­balls in the King­dom as they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an ac­cel­er­at­ing de­mand for top qual­ity IP ser­vices and dig­i­tal con­tent.

“The in­tro­duc­tion of the 100Gbps tech­nol­ogy to the Mid­dle East and Africa sup­ports the growth of Si­cily Hub as a strate­gic IP cen­ter in the mid­dle of the Mediter­ranean. Sparkle’s ob­jec­tives are to serve ISPS in the Mid­dle East and Africa by bring­ing world­wide con­tent di­rectly to their doorsteps with cut­ting-edge con­nec­tiv­ity tech­nol­ogy. And it makes Sparkle a pi­o­neer in pro­vid­ing top qual­ity and ad­vanced cost ef­fi­cient con­nec­tiv­ity so­lu­tions to cus­tomers in the re­gion ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a growth of ad­vanced IP ser­vices and de­mand for dig­i­tal con­tent in their home mar­kets,” Telotta says.


He con­tin­ued: “The SEA-ME-WE-5 will be op­er­a­tional in late 2016 and will land in Si­cily. Re­cently, we have driven SEA-MEWE-5 to adopt the ‘open pop strat­egy’ and Palermo, to­gether with Mar­seille and Sin­ga­pore, will be the only open and com­pet­i­tive ter­mi­na­tion point - a dis­rup­tive strat­egy in the world of in­ter­na­tional con­sor­tia ca­bles.”

The SEA-MEWE-5 will be op­er­a­tional in 2016 and lands in Si­cily” Alessan­dro Talotta, Sparkle

As a re­sult of all the above, to­day cus­tomers of Si­cily Hub ben­e­fit from in­creased Qual­ity: Si­cily Hub in­ter­con­nec­tions con­fig­u­ra­tion saves up to 35ms in la­tency with an over­all qual­ity im­prove­ment from 50% to 80% for cus­tomers from Africa, Mediter­ranean and Mid­dle East

The Si­cily Hub prox­im­ity to cus­tomers low­ers the im­pact of fi­bre breaks. con­nec­tion to all land­ing sta­tions in Si­cily makes re­cov­ery from ca­ble fail­ure faster and less ex­pen­sive. In in the mid­dle of the Mediter­ranean with a rich ecosys­tem of 19 other ca­bles, it of­fers up to 35ms re­duced la­tency ver­sus more north­ern lo­ca­tions.


“Last but not least we are heav­ily in­vest­ing in the Amer­i­cas with the new Seabras ca­ble, the first to di­rectly con­nect São Paulo, Brazil, to New York. We own half of the 6-fi­bre pair sys­tem which will be op­er­a­tional in 2017. As we are a top player in the re­gion and we have been ranked the best IP route be­tween North and South Amer­ica we keep in­vest­ing in our back­bone to en­sure our cus­tomers con­tinue to re­ceive best ser­vice qual­ity and stan­dards, and we re­main po­si­tioned as the main ref­er­ence point in the mar­ket for spe­cific high qual­ity de­mand­ing seg­ments like fi­nance and gam­ing in­dus­tries.”

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