By: Brian Lavallée

Tampnet is a Norwegian-based global operator of oilfield telecommunications, wholesale capacity, and mobile LTE services. Tampnet operates the largest offshore multi-terabit, low-latency optical network in the North Sea, which reliably serves over 240 offshore assets such mobile rigs; floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) platforms; and exploration rigs. Reliable, high-speed, low-latency network services are the primary goals of their network, which includes 2,500 km of subsea fiber optic links, multiple strategically located 4G LTE base stations, and a multitude of traditional point-to-point radio links. The state-of-the-art optical network employs an all-optical Colorless-Directionless-Contentionless (CDC) design that achieves the lowest latency possible with a Layer 0 Control Plane that is both OTN and mesh capable for sub-100G services rates.

Fiber-based, high-speed, low-latency IT infrastructure required for the modern oil field. Image by Tampnet.

Fiber-based, high-speed, low-latency IT infrastructure required for the modern oil field. Image by Tampnet.

Backdrop: The Digital Offshore Oilfield.

Big data analytics, remote exploration, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are market trends set to impact a wide array of industries. For the oil and gas industry, these new advances are reality today. Fiber optic networks and the digital resources that they interconnect are facilitating this technological transformation by allowing the entire offshore energy ecosystem to more efficiently manage resources, such as oil drilling platforms.

Energy corporations leverage submarine networks, like Tampnet’s, to connect offshore assets to onshore assets and realize a variety of operational benefits to help differentiate via operational efficiency. Some of the important benefits that interconnected offshore digital oilfields offer are listed below.

• Constant and reliable access to onshore experts located anywhere in the world via connections to the global internet, allowing for faster and improved decision- making for optimal business practices.

• Significantly improved efficiency of offshore operations, coupled with vastly reduced downtimes.

• Improved operational safety/security for offshore personnel and assets via continuous communications.

• Ongoing communications between onshore and offshore personnel to expedite critical decisions.

• Near real-time visibility, control, and oversight to best manage exploration activities and drilling assets.

To maximize the inherent value of the big data collected from multiple offshore assets, broadband and mobile LTE connectivity must be provided via modern submarine telecommunication networks to ensure a constant flow of an immense amount of actionable data to and from offshore assets and onshore data centers.

Tampnet North Sea and Gulf of Mexico network assets and connectivity. Image by Tampnet.

Tampnet North Sea and Gulf of Mexico network assets and connectivity. Image by Tampnet.

Opportunity: Connecting Critical Destinations Beyond the Digital Oilfields

The recent emergence of Sweden, Norway, and Finland as superior data center markets is highlighted by Cushman and Wakefield’s annual study of global data center markets. In 2013, all three countries placed in the top 10 globally. Today, just 3 years later, the same study placed all three countries in the top 5 of all markets globally for data center attractiveness—and this region has effectively become a premier data center hub for the world.

It’s not hard to see why, as these countries collectively possess a vibrant, educated workforce; access to green and secure energy; low operating costs; and the support of local and national governments and industry. For almost any measure—total operating costs, available energy in terms of megawatts already deployed, modernization, and physical security of the facilities themselves—the Nordic region has quite possibility the most advanced portfolio of data centers in the world.

Until recently, access to the Nordic region data center market was constrained by congested and non-diverse routes from mainland Europe through Denmark and Sweden. This has now been changed as Tampnet enters the market for the wholesale connectivity. Markets such as London and Dublin, even Amsterdam and Paris, can now access the region via Tampnet’s direct North Sea routes. Furthermore, Tampnet also has direct continental access via its system to Denmark. Together with Tampnet’s northern route to Aberdeen, southern route to Lowestoft (UK), and direct route to Denmark, Tampnet can offer customers the ultimate in diversity—three diverse and direct routes from the data center markets in the Nordics to the rest of Europe. No other network in place can offer this capability today, placing Tampnet and its customers in an enviable competitive position.

The North Sea as a Strategic Route Offering Critical Diversity to Key Markets in Europe

Besides offering highly reliable and protected data center connectivity, Tampnet also offers their customers an alternative for transport to carrier hotels, peering exchanges, and points beyond the Nordics, such as Russia and Central and Eastern Europe. By enabling a northern alternative connecting these markets, Tampnet provides geographic diversity from congested infrastructure found in Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany. In many cases, Tampnet’s alternative routes offer reductions in latency as well, which is always a sought-after benefit.

Tampnet also offers an advantage by combining the latest in CDC optical technology from Ciena across its entire infrastructure, which means a failure in one part of the network does not interrupt traffic in other parts of the Tampnet network and ensuring resiliency and high network availability. In addition, because Tampnet’s subsea routes are switched on offshore platforms, Tampnet can shift traffic mid-span in the event of an outage at sea. This capability is particularly helpful in the increasingly congested, yet vital waterways of Europe.

General Colorless-Directionless-Contentionless (CDC) architecture. Image by Ciena.

General Colorless-Directionless-Contentionless (CDC) architecture. Image by Ciena.

A CDC architecture transforms optical network links into a fully flexible programmable platform that is highly responsive to application needs, allowing network operators to future-proof their assets—submarine assets in this case—such that Tampnet can fully optimize, scale, and flexibly meet constantly evolving optical network service demands. Intelligent software control abstracts any CDC architecture complexities, allowing network operators to focus on offering a broad set of network services that are highly available, which is critical to connecting offshore assets. The key attributes and benefits of a CDC architecture are as follows:

• Directionless provides the ability to route wavelengths across any viable path in the optical network;

• Colorless provides the ability to receive any wavelength on any optical port for improved flexibility; and

• Contentionless eliminates wavelength blocking, allowing for wavelength reuse within the optical network.

Security and reliability-minded end users of optical networks incorporate redundant contingency paths as part of their risk analysis since terrestrial and submarine networks are susceptible to faults, regardless of the cause. Network path redundancy is key to improved Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plans and, as cloud-based content and applications are increasingly migrated into distant data centers, constant network access is critical to corporate viability—making constant uptime within the network component ever more necessary.

Tampnet’s large installed base of over 240 interconnected offshore assets is proof of their ongoing commitment to operating high availability services and the entire ecosystem relying on Tampnet to continue to put trust in their services. Tampnet’s network was designed from inception with the offshore energy sector’s ultra-reliable connectivity needs in mind, which is very similar to the connectivity needs of other sectors in northern Europe, such as large data center operators, carriers, ISPs, cloud, and content providers.

Unique Solutions, Advanced Technology, and Superior Reliability

Since 2001, Tampnet’s mission to create industry solutions for the energy sector has brought it to the unique position of operating critical and vital infrastructure, not just for the North Sea but for the Nordic region as a whole. Offering multiple diverse paths to and from the UK and Norway, combined with the latest in Ciena CDC capabilities, it provides customers with a highly unique and superior solution for reaching and transiting the Nordics when compared to most traditional, more conventional routes.

As we enter the next decade, the stage is already set for the introduction of new and exciting technologies, such as 5G, IoT, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and augmented/virtual reality— all of which will further disrupt the markets and application spaces served by Tampnet’s expansive network assets. As this profound and exciting transformation continues to unfold, the global demand for highly secure and scalable data centers interconnected over highly robust and resilient network connectivity will continue to grow. Tampnet and its close partners in the Nordic region have created a distinctive pairing of connectivity, scalability, security, and cost effectiveness that is currently unique in the Data Center Interconnect industry.

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