By Chris Sharp, Jon Lin, and Chris Hunsaker (part 2 of a 5-part series)
Why do more than 3,600 customers, including the top carriers, CDNs, content providers, and cloud providers choose Equinix as their data center services provider?
Equinix provides some of the most reliable, secure facilities in the world, and our long track record of delivering excellent service has earned the trust of top companies’ CTOs and CIOs who know application performance is mission critical.
But equally important, Equinix data centers are situated in critical locations throughout the internet, which enables Equinix customers to optimize their end users’ experience.
To understand how, let’s quickly review the structure of the internet.
To the general public, the internet is a “cloud” they can plug into anywhere, but the fundamental structure of the internet is actually drastically different. The internet is a vast series of interconnected networks that ride on the physical capacity of hundreds of telecom providers. These networks overlap geographically (some major cities have more than 50 networks), and they also share common characteristics.
First, all ISPs architect their networks with backbone connections engineered as high-speed trunks between key network nodes. Since these backbones are responsible for carrying massive amounts of data and distributing them across the network, they are critical to each carrier. Therefore, carriers devote significant engineering and operational resources to ensure the backbone runs as quickly and with as little contention as possible. By contrast, the regional coverage or non-backbone networks built by that same ISP may have some degree of oversubscription, resulting in unpredictable behavior and network congestion.
Second, the physical cables forming these backbone networks generally converge on certain locations due to population density and geographic limitations. In addition, sub-sea cables that connect the world’s continents reach the shore at very distinct locations based on geographic characteristics (away from shipping lanes to prevent cable cuts, but still near major cities), resulting in placement similar or identical to where ISPs locate their backbone networks.
Map of undersea fiber optic cables
Third, ISPs must have commercial agreements with each other to pass traffic, and physically connect backbones with each other to accomplish this. The locations where the backbones tie together, also known as peering points, are the bridge between carriers. Thus, a route between two computers connected to different carriers might not be the shortest possible route: data sent from a computer in Boston to a computer in Maine may go through a peering point in New York. The implications become even greater in Asia, where a PC in Singapore trying to reach Sydney may be routed through Los Angeles, transiting the Pacific Ocean twice. These types of routing inefficiencies can have devastating consequences on performance.
Equinix’s data centers were built to act as the major peering points for ISPs, and our founding principle is to serve as a neutral location for carriers and their customers to meet and efficiently exchange traffic. Equinix is the only global provider of carrier-neutral data center services. More than 600 carriers connect with each other in our facilities around the world, and the carrier connections to our facilities are their backbone links that expedite internet traffic.
Equinix customers choose to build their infrastructure inside our data centers to ensure reliability and security, while connecting to the carriers they choose in order to leverage the world’s most reliable and efficient network routes. This allows businesses to mitigate the unpredictability of the internet by connecting directly to the ISPs their end users use most often, whether a large cable broadband provider in the U.S., a French ISP, or a wireless provider for smartphones.
Because the physical speed limitations caused by geographical distances can also be a factor, Equinix has built data centers all around the world, enabling our customers to locate their infrastructure as close to their end users as possible. We call our combination of reliable data centers, located around the world, which contain dynamic ecosystems of customers and networks “Platform Equinix.”
In part 3 of our 5-part series, we’ll be explaining how we test internet application performance.