A distance of 160 kilometers of fibre optic cable has been laid by Eurofiber since I interviewed the group director of the company exactly one month ago. This impressive statistic is why the Dutch-based open digital network provider is leading the way in helping European cities stay connected.
The pace of deployment is staggering and started back in 2000 when Eurofiber laid their first 500km stretch of fibre network to connect the four major Dutch cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht. Today, they have laid more than 39,000km of fibre - laying 40kms each week - have 11 data centres and a digital footprint that covers the Netherlands, Belgium, France and a new branch in Germany.
For any company that lays this amount of fibre optic cable a trusted system integrator is vital if they are going to achieve their goal of helping European cities stay connected. Step in Infradata, who has been a proactive partner for 10 years helping Eurofiber move from the early days of dark fiber to providing a secure and connected digital infrastructure.
There was a time when a river was the lifeblood of a city for its trade and commerce, but as the pandemic has shown, the future of remote working for millions of people now relies on being connected to a digital world - as does the future safety and security of a city.
Eurofiber is literally laying a lifeline for the digital society of so-called ‘smart cities’. The network is already being used to control 75 per cent of the movable locks and bridges along Amsterdam’s famous canals. “Vital infrastructure” is how the Dutch government designates the company’s open digital network which means different providers, from hospitals to FinTech, companies, governments and non-profit organisations can install and operate their services in an efficient way.
“Utilising our own fibre optic network and data centres, we provide smart, open, future-proof cloud infrastructure and connectivity solutions to companies, government bodies and non-profit organisations,” said Daniel Danon, Managing Director Cloud Infrastructure.
“Customers have complete freedom to choose the services, applications and providers they need, allowing them to tap into the full potential of digital innovation,” said former French engineer Daniel Danon, who joined Eurofiber in April 2020 at the height of the pandemic.
Speaking from Utrecht, Danon said the DNA of the company is an “open fibre network to enable others” pointing out he is proud to lead an organisation - rich with a strong ecosystem of partners such asInfradata - and has the aim of helping others at its heart.
Open fibre network
Eurofibers’s open digital infrastructure, which they own and operate, is designed to independently support a wide spectrum of industries and innovations. The companies Dataplace, FullSave, Eura DC and Netiwan operate their 11 data centres in the Netherlands and France.
“We were lucky enough in 2000 to have the vision of how fibre was going to be a key part of the future and it has become the most future-proof, dynamic, element of our digital world. We have been able to create an infrastructure that is cost effective, which is very important to us as we want to enable other people’s businesses in a financial and technical way,” said Danon.
“As a company we have a digital all the way approach, we're fast growing so everything has to be scalable and that means being digitised. So we know how important it is to be digital, to have our processes and our systems, at the disposal of our 550 employees and of our partners, wherever they are.
“We find that same culture and approach with our partner Infradata. That is one of the reasons this partnership has lasted so long.
“Going digital for our customers can also be counterproductive if you don’t keep it personal.
Whenever we're thinking about digitisation, it's very important for both our customers and for colleagues, that we go digital - but we always keep it personal.”
Hybrid cloud management
The Eurofiber Group consists of: Eurofiber, DCspine and MatrixMind (in the Netherlands and Belgium), Dataplace (Netherlands), FullSave, Lumos, Eurafibre, ATE, Eura DC and Netiwan (France) and provide the following services:
- Secure cloud connect
- Business Internet
- Managed dark fibre
- Data centre services
“We also provide services to secure cloud connect that allows you to have a direct connection into a player such as Amazon, Microsoft Azure or Google cloud, and not have to go through the internet remaining on an ethernet layer which means it is very close to the customer,” said Danon.
“What I think customers really need from us is overall hybrid cloud management. It's not just about connecting one office building to another. We are connecting our customers and partners to their data, wherever it is, and helping them manage that data flow, in their own premises, in the data centres that are close to them, as well as into the public cloud.”
Danon cites that having an open network model allows them to be “different and powerful” giving Eurofiber the competitive advantage.
“From the start we were an open network, and it really is part of the DNA of the organisation that Eurofiber was built to be the fibre for everyone. We've brought that into the larger digital infrastructure, including colocation and connecting data centres, which is unique and powerful.
“Our open network is different and powerful as it allows us to invest once, for many. It allows us to deliver ultra low latency and because we have a mesh network the routing is much more dynamic and direct,” said Danon who also pointed out having a presence across Europe was also important.
“In addition, when you're thinking about data, it's also about colocation and connecting to the cloud. Managing and controlling all aspects of this hybrid cloud also puts us in a competitive position. That means that we really are the partner of choice in terms of digital infrastructure.
“We are continuing the vision of a dynamic digital world first envisioned by Eurofiber when the company started more than 20 years ago.”
10-year partnership with Infradata
Danon outlined the importance of being an open network which enables Eurofiber to work with an ecosystem of partners which include Infradata.
“Infradata is not just a partner, they really are our system integrator. Our network is largely based on equipment they manage with us and that equipment is an integral part of all of the service level agreements - our promise to customers. They have been supporting us and taking care of the ethernet and internet network.”
Nick Vaes, Director Network Operator at Eurofiber said: “Infradata is a proactive partner, flexible, and always willing to fight for us. We started as a company which only had dark fibre. About 16 years ago we started delivering lit services for our customers. Our open network delivers ethernet (layer 2) and later on internet (layer 3) services over our network.”
“We partnered with Infradata for our active layer of the network, so we are capable of delivering services, not only to our direct customers but also through all the partners at the indirect channels,” he said.
“It is a very proactive partnership, thinking together, evolving the network, and looking at what is going to happen in the future. It’s a partnership that is building a strong network to serve our customers."
Taimen Boumans, Managing Director of The Netherlands at Infradata, echoed the sentiment saying the overlap in DNA between the two Dutch companies has deepened the partnership over the years. “All the proposals and the projects we design and help deploy for Eurofiber provide quality, cost-effectiveness and also predictability is very important.”
Commenting on the current work to upgrade the core network infrastructure to 100G, Boumans said: “What we see happening in the market is that demands for those solutions are picking up. Technology is a step ahead of market demands. We already find ourselves exploring 400G.
“Eurofiber is expanding into many new markets like Belgium, Germany, France and moving into consumer markets. This is a nice overlap for us as we cover the same digital footprint so we find ourselves also exploring and widening the partnership in those areas as we move forward and taking it to the next level,” he said.
Commenting on what challenges Infradata helped Eurofiber to overcome during the early days, Sjaak Lemmers, Account Director of Infradata said: “It started as dark fibre only, just the cables and no services in the early days. We helped Eurofiber to build and offer an IP service portfolio which is now formally assigned to as vital infrastructure by the government.”
Giving an example of a mission critical infrastructure project, Infradata has successfully been involved in with Eurofiber, Lemmers highlighted in 2017 they started to replace the older part of the networks to improve automation for provisioning. “This also enables us to grow the bandwidth to a scalable platform.
“The high-speed band-width project is a great example of our partnership with Eurofiber. We are expanding the bandwidth in the core to new generation equipment. And at the same time, this enables Eurofiber to keep the same processes and working relations, improve the performance and keep ahead of the market demands,” he said.
Healthcare and FinTech
Danon said Eurofiber will continue to be agile to their customers by making sure they are available and adapt to their needs. “We’re constantly monitoring developments in industries like healthcare and FinTech and we build scenarios on that to make sure our network will continue to be the infrastructure they need. This also includes security encryption, reach and latency and bandwidth.
“It’s also about our colocation infrastructure being more than just real estate but being part of how customers connect to the cloud, and that cloud is in itself is a very agile and dynamic place to work in. We've already recognised how we can build an infrastructure - an orchestration capability - to combine everything we've got. It’s not always about inventing something new. It's also about combining what we have with the expertise of our partners.”
Danon said he was looking forward to focusing on their new venture in Berlin. “Extending our fibre networks and data centres across Western Europe is part of the future plans but we are also committed to focusing on the growth here in the Netherlands. Belgium and France still have a lot of fibre and cloud connectivity opportunities and we are focusing on our joint venture in Germany,” he said.
Eurofiber - seven steps to a fast, secure and cost effective service
- Ethernet - connect sites securely and flexibly over a custom private network with Ethernet VPN
- Secure cloud connect - offers a safe, direct access to multiple cloud platforms
- Business Internet - offer employees fast and secure internet access with business internet
- WDM - benefit from high bandwidths with WDM and don't worry about management.
- SD-WAN - software replaces manual management
- Managed dark fibre - control the bandwidth of your dark fiber and grow as needed
- Data centre services - data and applications optimally and securely available in a Tier3 data centre
- Connectivity - the foundation of a smart city
How Eurofiber is connecting cities
Eurofiber has a unique partnership with Amsterdam Smart City (ASC) who work with companies, governments, knowledge institutions and the people of Amsterdam with the aim of developing the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area as a smart city.
As the Dutch government has recognised, for a city to become connected it needs an open digital network so different providers can install and operate their services in an efficient way.
Eurofiber’s fiber optic infrastructure in the capital is very dense. The fine-meshed network coverage across the Dutch capital is laying the foundation for smart city applications so that sensors, intelligent systems, Internet of Things applications and big data analyses can be used efficiently.
Amsterdam has the most inhabitants of a Dutch municipality: 859,732 in an area of 219 km² - a quarter of which is water. Eurofiber’s coverage extends to hospitals, schools, metro services, energy stations and the famous canals with some 50 bridges and locks connected via the Eurofiber network, as well as 200 bus shelters and dozens of security cameras in the public space. With an average network distance of 400 meters to the backbone, 96 per cent of the locations in the Amsterdam region are within their network coverage.
Eurofiber started in 2018 with the construction of a large-scale, fine-mesh fibre optic network between all locations of the Municipality of Rotterdam. With this project, all existing fibre optic networks of the Municipality of Rotterdam are optimised and linked to the Eurofiber network, creating a single high-quality fibre optic network for the municipality.
“We've helped them connect everything from bridges to cameras and the electricity network. When we talk about a smart city, it means that everything in that city will benefit from being connected with fibre and opening up opportunities for the people living there,” said Danon.
“It is a key enabler which will allow the city to live its full digital potential and deliver its citizens more ecological and effective connectivity. We also have to think of future-proofing a smart city and prepare it for a future of 5G and edge computing.
Eurofiber has just appointed Christoph Klein as Managing Director Germany to lead the expansion in Germany as part of its European growth strategy. Eurofiber entered the German market with a joint venture with Vattenfall, which is established to connect more than 500,000 households and businesses in Berlin. Recently, it announced a partnership with fiber network operator NGN partnership to build a leading B2B fiber infrastructure platform in Germany.