Microsoft Joins Facebook’s Push to Disrupt Telco Infrastructure

Enters collective effort to make global networks scale faster

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

February 27, 2017

2 Min Read
microsoft logo on wall
(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)Getty Images

Microsoft is one of the latest companies to join the Telecom Infra Project, the group of companies Facebook put together last year to reimagine telecommunications infrastructure technology.

Both Microsoft and Facebook, as well as other companies with hyper-scale internet platforms with global reach, have been investing heavily in telco infrastructure in recent years. As their bandwidth needs grow, these companies, which also include Google and Amazon, have been playing larger and larger roles in development of new intercontinental submarine cables and expanding their terrestrial fiber capacity.

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Microsoft was one of several new members the organization announced Monday in conjunction with Mobile World Congress, the mobile tech industry’s largest trade show taking place this week in Barcelona. Other new members include Airtel, BT, Dish, Etisalat, and Nextel.
Modeled on Facebook’s older open source data center and hardware design community Open Compute Project, the Telecom Infra Project, or TIP, is aiming to accelerate innovation in the telco space because “scaling traditional telecom infrastructure to meet … global data challenge is not moving as fast as people need it to,” Jay Parikh, Facebook’s global head of engineering and infrastructure, wrote in a blog post earlier.

Microsoft is one of the biggest OCP members. It was the second hyper-scale data center operator to join after Facebook. Apple and Google are also members but joined years later.

Related: Visual Guide to Facebook's Open Source Data Center Hardware

TIP’s focus is on three layers of the telco network: access, backhaul, and core and management. Like OCP, TIP operates around the principle of disaggregation, aiming to replace proprietary, vertically integrated solutions with interoperable components that can be unbundled from the stack and improved individually.

One of the first pieces of technology to come out of TIP, the optical transponder Voyager, is being deployed for testing by Telia as part of its longhaul fiber network and by Orange over its optical transport network. Data center provider Equinix, one of TIP's earliest members, began trials of Voyager in its data centers last year.

As part of today’s announcement, BT said it will launch TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Centers in London and Adastral Park, the telco’s research campus in England’s Suffolk County. The first such center is in Seoul, funded by SK Telecom and announced last November.

TIP also announced that a group of investors, incubators, universities, and private funds in London will invest $170 million in telecom infrastructure startups.

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