(A version of this post was originally published in Network World.)
While Equinix is perhaps best known for running more than 175 data centers worldwide, our core business is interconnection. It’s been that way since we were founded in 1998 to provide a vendor-neutral meeting place where network and internet service providers could connect as they built the early internet. Our data centers are where we deliver that interconnection globally.
But exactly what do we mean by interconnection, and why does it matter?
Interconnection is private data exchange between businesses. A more detailed definition of Interconnection is the deployment of IT traffic exchange points that integrate direct, private connections between counterparties. Interconnection is best achieved hosted in carrier-neutral data center campuses, where distributed IT components are colocated. In an age when reams of information race around the world with the click of a finger and massive transactions routinely occur several times faster than the blink of an eye, interconnection powers digital business.
Interconnection is much more than successfully connecting Point A to Point B. Telephone wires pulled off that kind of simple connectivity ages ago. Today’s enterprise-grade interconnection has some key characteristics that can help take digital business to the next level:
Digital ecosystem density
The prefix, “inter,” offers a clue about what makes interconnection different from standard connectivity, because it can mean “among.” So “inter”-connection speaks of a connectivity that involves several parties at once. Interconnection links numerous discrete entities and makes them not only capable of uniting with each other in digital ecosystems, but also of connecting as a unit with other individual entities, ecosystems and groups of ecosystems.
This is the many-to-many connectivity that’s required in this interconnected era, when companies create value by connecting to partners, customers and employees globally to collaborate or exchange data. These entities must be able to connect instantly and simultaneously over a variety of devices and through various sources to execute the ultra-fast transactions essential to business today.
Bringing together the interconnected world’s players (clouds, data, companies, digital ecosystems, individuals) is just one hallmark of interconnection. These connections also must be as close to each other as possible. Distance creates latency, and shrinking the distance between the various counterparties is the only way minimize it and offer the greatest user experience possible. In addition, closer connections (via cross connects or exchange ports) are typically far less expensive than connections over long-haul networks.
Direct connections that do not need to traverse the public internet are another key characteristic of interconnection. Direct, private, 1-to-1 or 1-to-many connections are the fastest connections, and not only deliver the best performance, they are also the most secure. That’s hugely important in a time of expanding digital borders, and expanding vulnerabilities.
Delivered via globally distributed exchange point
Finally, companies, clouds and digital communities need a place to gather to be close enough to each other to make their myriad direct connections. And these places must be close to dense population centers, or high latency will degrade the user experience. In a global digital economy, interconnection must happen at globally dispersed exchange points like the carrier-neutral, colocation campuses Equinix operates. The alternative is backhauling traffic to a central data center, and that’s costly and can’t provide the connectivity that users demand.
To sum up:
- Interconnection delivers many-to-many connectivity between a range of parties in close proximity to each other, and it creates digital ecosystem density.
- Interconnection provides direct 1-to-1 or 1-to-many connectivity between the parties involved. Only direct connections can achieve the low-latency and security needed today.
- Interconnection happens at distributed exchange points hosted in vendor-neutral, colocation facilities. These places are where the enterprise, service providers, networks, etc. can gather and establish private, low-latency connections with their users, clouds, data repositories, digital ecosystems, employees – whatever they need to execute business.
In our hyper-connected world, interconnection isn’t optional. As digital technology forces companies to transform their IT, becoming interconnected is necessary to compete and grow in the digital economy.
What’s next: Staying ahead of interconnection bandwidth
If interconnection is critical to digital business, how can the enterprise know where it stands today and where to go next? That’s where a metric called interconnection bandwidth is essential.
While traditional bandwidth measures how much data can be transferred over a given network, interconnection bandwidth shows how ready an industry or region is to maximize interconnection. Specifically, interconnection bandwidth is a measure of the capacity to transfer traffic via direct, private interconnections at traffic exchange points hosted inside carrier-neutral colocation data center campuses.
Companies can determine existing interconnection bandwidth requirements by measuring installed data center capacity and connections. Then, by looking at the projected growth of interconnection bandwidth by company size, regional footprint, use cases or vertical industries, they can pinpoint how much interconnection bandwidth they will need to successfully compete in the digital economy.
The ability to proactively assess and apply interconnection bandwidth will become increasingly important as enterprises and service providers create new strategies to grow and expand their digital business capabilities and results.
In short, interconnection is poised to shape the future of business. It’s time to start preparing for that reality now.