What is Interconnection?

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  • When you are making the decision to house your equipment and information in a colocation facility, space and power needs are top of mind. Still, it is just as critical to understand the different network interconnection options available to you so that your customers and business users are able to access your computational power and stored data. In fact, the ability to interconnect with the ecosystem of service providers within a given data center is a core benefit of colocation.

    Unlike in-house data centers, colocation data centers aggregate networks, internet service providers (ISPs), content providers, cloud service providers, internet exchanges, and other customers or partners that your business is able to interconnect with. This aggregation can result in considerable cost savings as you can create a competitive environment amongst these various types of service providers. When choosing a data center, it is critical to understand what the value of this ecosystem might have for your business from a performance, security, and economic perspective.

    To optimize your network and hybrid cloud architecture, you need to go beyond knowing which service providers are available and understand the details of each type of connection (also known as “cross connects”). Below is a description of the most common types of interconnection and their most salient attributes. As you evaluate your data center options, it is important to understand the various types of interconnections that are available within a given colocation facility.

  • Standard Types of Interconnection

    • Local Cross Connects: A local cross connect is a physical connection two customer environments (either cages, server racks, or suites) within a single data center. A local cross connect can connect two environments for the same customer or can connect two separate customers that agree to the connection
    • Extended Cross Connects: An extended cross connect is a connection between two customer environments that are located in the same building, but not within the same data center. This is most common in carrier hotels or buildings with multiple colo providers. The customer purchases a cross connect from its colocation provider to connect to the building’s Meet-Me-Room. Extended cross connects typically use OS2 Singlemode Fiber due to the distance limitations of copper cabling.
    • Metro Connect: A metro connect is a connection between two customer environments that are in the same metropolitan area, but not in the same building. Colocation providers may offer a highly reliable connection via leased or owned fiber, using Layer 1 or Layer 2 based services. Customers can choose different levels of redundancy based on their need – unprotected (no redundancy), redundant (each location has a redundant switch), and protected (each location has 2 redundant switches)
    • Innerducts: Typically more relevant for network service providers, Innerducts are large conduits for companies with bulk fiber cable requirements that enable bulk connection to customers in a data center. It is the cable pathway from a carrier’s fiber outside of the data center to the carrier’s cage in the data center.
    • Internet Exchange: An internet exchange consists of multiple networks such as ISP’s, content providers, and other businesses physically connecting to an an ethernet switching fabric which enables them to exchange traffic. This traffic exchange, known as “Peering,” reduces network costs and enables efficient IP traffic interchange by aggregating thousands of networks at the exchange onto a shared fabric connecting peers at multiple data centers. This enhances network performance by eliminating network hops and can reduce bandwidth costs. If you connect to an internet exchange, a technician will install a cross connect from your patch panel to patch panels that are pre-wired into the internet exchange switch
    • Direct Internet Services: Direct internet service uses multiple upstream ISPs to provide bundled IP transit solutions for customers that want this type of internet connection. The colocation provider will offer a cross connect to the bundled internet switch.
    • Carrier Ethernet Exchange: A carrier ethernet exchange enables Ethernet buyers and sellers to discover, transact and interconnect to each other to cost-effectively scale ethernet deployments and extend network reach.
    • Mobile Internet Exchange: Mobile internet exchange is a fully managed ethernet switching fabric designed to exchange of mobile internet traffic via a cross connect in a data center
    • Cloud Exchange: With a cross connect into a Cloud Exchange fabric, customers can connect to one or more public cloud providers over virtual circuits
    • Direct Connect: With the permission of your cloud service provider, Direct Connect allows enterprises to access public cloud providers such as AWS, Azure, and GCP, with a direct connection that bypasses the public internet.

    After determining which connection type is optimal, the colocation facility typically provides the connections to the end user’s patch panel (See: Primer on Demarcation). The end user is still responsible for connecting their servers to that patch panel.

    When you are determining your colocation needs, be sure to consider the different types of connection on offer at each facility and how these align with your needs. This is part of the due diligence of a colocation decision. Our sourcing tool makes it easy to compare across providers and facilities – create your new project today.

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