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Data Center Interconnect: A Comprehensive Guide

By: Tom Banta on December 3, 2019

Traditional data center infrastructure was often viewed in a very compartmentalized form. A single facility provided specific resources and served a designated function. When the time came to expand an organization’s IT capabilities, it had to invest in a new facility or place hardware in a third-party data center colocation environment.

But today’s connectivity technology has changed that model. While many companies have already leveraged the power of cloud computing, others are discovering ways to expand their versatility by integrating their existing resources. One of these innovations, data center interconnect technology, has shown tremendous promise.

What is Data Center Interconnect (DCI) Technology?

Data center interconnection solutions make it possible to link two or more separate data center facilities in order to achieve key business or IT objectives. Thanks to data center interconnect options, these facilities can work together by sharing resources and passing workloads between one another. Data center interconnect (DCI) technology is most commonly found in enterprise IT infrastructure, where an organization operates more than one facility or has partnered with multiple colocation providers.

Organizations can use DCI in a variety of ways:

  • Link multiple data centers used by an organization.
  • Connect data centers used by trusted partners or customers to shared data or computing resources.
  • Facilitate workload sharing to shift various processes from one data center to another, often to improve efficiency.
  • Pool data center compute resources to deliver scalable processing capacity.
  • Implement a data center disaster recovery solution by designating one or more interconnected facilities as a disaster recovery site.

Making the Connection

True interconnectivity is much more than simply linking one location to another. It achieves a “many-to-many” connection that allows multiple entities to communicate, transfer data, and share resources simultaneously. Interconnected ecosystems that are located close to one another can also be connected to other, more distant entities by way of distributed exchange points hosted in carrier-neutral colocation data centers.

In most cases, DCI connections are facilitated through a virtual private network (VPN), direct fiber lines, or the public internet. The first two options offer better security and lower latency, but often at a higher cost. However the connection is made, DCI technology allows users to access and utilize IT resources from any facility in the network.

Important DCI Network Considerations

Distance

The farther data centers are located from one another, the longer it takes for data to travel between them. Latency is a measure of that time, so low latency connections are critical for improving network performance. Selecting the shortest distance possible when mapping out the physical route for a connection will help to reduce latency, as will using the very latest in fiberoptic cabling technology.

Capacity

While DCI connections allow different data centers to transfer data and workloads between one another, it’s important to remember that not every facility has the same capabilities. If one facility has limited storage capacity or struggles to handle spikes in data traffic due to subpar routers, it could severely hinder DCI performance.

Security

Any time data leaves the secure confines of a data center, IT personnel must take special care to ensure it is protected in transit. Data transmitted over a DCI connection needs to adhere to strict encryption protocols and be subject to detailed rules regarding how it can be accessed and utilized. This helps to protect data integrity and avoid a costly and embarrassing data breach that could potentially cripple an organization.

Operations

Most DCI networks are far too complex to be managed manually. Automated routing protocols and open APIs are essential to enabling data to move rapidly between workloads and across applications. By automating key systems, networks can minimize human error and increase speed significantly while also freeing up IT and data center personnel to focus on more high-value tasks.

Cost

Building a new data center facility is an expensive undertaking, which is why more organizations are turning away from on-premises private data centers and toward third-party data center colocation solutions. With DCI networks, companies can effectively pool their existing resources to maximize the capabilities of the data centers at their disposal. This is especially important for backup and redundancy. By connecting to a disaster recovery as a service provider through DCI connections, a company can get all of the benefits of having a dedicated backup data center without having to make the massive capital investment of building a new facility.

Thanks to data center interconnect technology, organizations can leverage their existing resources to enhance IT versatility and functionality. Whether they’re rolling out new cloud-based applications or transferring data between multiple points in their networks, these companies can embark on a digital transformation that frees them from the traditional confines of IT and data center architecture. When increasing capacity and processing power is only an interconnection away, they can stay focused on investing in innovative products and services rather than constantly building out a new infrastructure footprint.

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