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Interconnection: Adding value to the colocation business

Image: Adobe Stock / Sashkin

In the fast-paced world of business, companies are constantly searching for ways to gain a competitive edge. For enterprises, one of the key components of success is having a strong and reliable connection to their partners and customers across the globe. In order to achieve this, they need the support of colocation providers who can help them navigate the complex world of connectivity. 

Colocation providers must ensure they are meeting the current and future needs of their enterprise customers as effectively as possible. This includes supporting them in solving larger connectivity challenges across broadly distributed geographies, increasing performance, strengthening security and resilience, reducing complexity, and increasing control of compliance within their partner ecosystem. This requires the ability to control infrastructures and data flows, and data centre operators can help them do this.

However, data centres need more than just power and space. They need to offer local access to strong network density and diversity, scalable and customisable interconnection services, and wide geographical coverage of interconnection infrastructure. Achieving all of this on their own is a daunting task for any operator. That’s where the importance of a healthy and vibrant interconnection ecosystem comes in.

Data centre operators need to ensure they are part of a larger interconnection ecosystem to meet customer demands for seamless and efficient interconnection, regardless of location. The most effective way to achieve this is through the presence of an Internet Exchange (IX) in the data centre.

The virtual MMR

Imagine the data centre as the hub of a bustling metropolis. Just as a city needs roads, bridges, and transportation networks, data centres need a network infrastructure to connect partners, cloud services, resources, and applications. Network density is what makes this possible, allowing data centres to become part of a wider ecosystem instead of catering solely to their own local customers. 

They can achieve this by joining an open and distributed IX ecosystem – one that is data centre and carrier neutral – where as many networks as possible converge. Here, the neutrality of the ecosystem is central, bringing with it the diversity of providers and their manifold customers. This increases the network density at the data centre, improving the latency and resilience of connections to create a competitive advantage. 

Let’s take an example. A distributed IX in a busy city like New York might be accessed by well over a hundred points of presence (PoP). Because the IX is neutral and distributed, not only all the major data centre operators, but also smaller players are present on the interconnection fabric. Every single network present in a data centre connected to the fabric in this market can reach any other network connected in any other location in the market. 

Distributed IXs might also exist in places like Dallas, Chicago, or Phoenix, and the combined power of all of these data centre operations can add value to customers by strengthening the density of the network. A network connected in any one of the hundreds of PoPs in North America would then be able to access and interconnect directly with thousands of local and global networks. In effect, a data centre plugs itself and its customers into the largest data centre and carrier-neutral ‘virtual MMR’ in the world.

Added value through modern interconnection services

Enterprises are also looking for interconnection services for a variety of specialised use cases. They need direct, dedicated, and multi-homed access to their resources and applications sourced from a variety of clouds, and customised private interconnection services across multiple geographical regions or continents, with enhanced security and compliance features that support their zero-trust network strategy. They also need simplicity in the booking and cancelling of interconnection services and cloud connectivity, as well as the enablement of an interconnection fabric API that they can embed in their own systems. 

To provision all of this, data centre operators will need to work with an interconnection partner that can deliver customised, low-latency, and secure interconnection services, integrated as part of a large ecosystem of thousands of networks and hundreds of data centres. This ecosystem must be well distributed – as local as possible, and as global as required. 

The time has come for data centre operators to take action on interconnection and integrate the concept of an IX into their business plan. What approach they should take to do this depends on their level of in-house knowledge, their location, and their business strategy: 

The DIY IX: Doing it yourself requires consistent effort and specialist interconnection knowledge. The more the ecosystem grows, the more gravity it will generate, making it more attractive for further networks to join. However, developing that initial gravity can be challenging. Furthermore, if the platform is only available in the data centre facilities, it is a closed environment that does not offer the benefits of a broader interconnection ecosystem. 

Partner with an interconnection specialist: An interconnection specialist can offer the know-how and experience, as well as a ready-made ecosystem and an immediate offering for data centre customers. To get the most out of interconnection ecosystem-building, an open and neutral partner is needed.

If the data centre is near an existing open and neutral IX, the best option would be to become an enabled site of that IX. Doing so embeds the data centre within this ecosystem to capitalise on its interconnection gravity. The data centre’s portfolio can thus be enriched with interconnection services, offering customers and prospects access to a diverse ecosystem of network, content, cloud, and application providers, as well as interconnection services specifically designed for the needs of enterprises. 

If the data centre is operating outside a metro area, the simplest alternative would be to become a connectivity partner for an existing exchange within its closest metro area. Here, the data centre is connected to the chosen (data centre and carrier neutral) exchange, so that it can transport its customers to the interconnection platform. This brings the benefits of the existing ecosystem right to the data centre.

IX as a Service: Another alternative would be to investigate Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions. Along with the advantages of having seasoned experts build and operate an IX hosted in the data centre, there are added benefits if the IX can be integrated into the IX operator’s own ecosystem. 

A solution to the challenges of digital transformation

In the face of increasing demands on data centre interconnection, the only way forward is to join together with others. Whichever way a data centre operator chooses to approach interconnection, when it comes to nurturing a diverse and healthy ecosystem, it is clear that openness and neutrality enable a heightened value proposition for customers. Increased network density and customised interconnection services provide a competitive advantage and add value to data centre facilities. There is strength in numbers that vastly surpasses what each of us can achieve in isolation.

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