Core Network Upgrade
Graham Lewis, Director, IP Engineering
20 December 2022

Increasing customer growth, an insatiable demand for more bandwidth and new fixed line and mobile services continue to drive expansion of our core network. When Covid struck the World in 2020 many of the customer networking projects that keep the IP Engineering team busy were put on a hiatus. We decided to make good use of this opportunity to bring forward a core network refresh, a project that we have only just completed given the many challenges that confronted us.

Our core MPLS ring had been based on dual 10Gbps links between our network nodes. The next logical step was to increase those links to 100Gbps between nodes with the ability to add further links as required.

We felt it was important that we retain our dual vendor strategy for networking equipment which meant assessing equipment from different vendors. Eventually we agreed to purchase new network routers and spares from Cisco Systems Inc and Juniper Networks. After having to wait for the equipment to arrive in the UK, due to shipping and customs delays caused by the pandemic, we slowly introduced it into our network starting in late 2020, with our team working overnight as usual to ensure minimal disruption.

The circuits between network nodes would need to be 100Gbps wavelength services. Within the docklands area there is a competitive market for such services, but outside of that we found finding fibre suppliers involved extended negotiations. We eventually signed agreements for wavelength services from three different providers – Lumen (formerly Level-3), Neos Networks (formerly SSE telecom) and Exa (formerly GTT). Selecting multiple vendors avoids us “having all our eggs in one basket” should one supplier fail.

By far the longest lead time was getting new fibre laid into our Printworks building from two different fibre suppliers with permissions needed from both TFL (Transport For London) and the local council to let civil works commence at a time agreeable to them both. Local councils don’t like residents being disturbed and TFL don’t like buses being disrupted. Works that required bus lanes to be closed had to work to tight deadlines by the civil engineering teams with the threat of penalties if works overran.

Eventually one by one all the new network ports were lit up and without ceremony the new core network was brought into service.

Along the way we also dramatically increased our IP transit and LINX peering capacity and added new Ethernet service providers such as G.Networks and CityFibre.

As we finally see some light at the end of the tunnel that has changed the world so much in the last couple of years Spitfire has an extended and enhanced core network ready to deliver.