When to Use a Direct Connect or a Virtual Connect…or Both

Bill Long
When to Use a Direct Connect or a Virtual Connect…or Both

Chances are that your organization is struggling with an increasing demand for complex cloud services, data privacy and protection, and inter-company data exchange. With this demand comes decisions for how to achieve the direct and secure interconnection needed in this digital age. The two interconnection methods we’ll be discussing here are Equinix Cross Connects (direct connect) and Equinix Fabric™ (virtual connect), along with enterprise use cases for using either one or both of these.

Interconnection enables the private and direct exchange of data traffic between counterparties and creates a platform for networking between organizational boundaries, and it is growing at a rapid rate. According to the Global Interconnection Index, a market study published by Equinix, by 2020 the global Interconnection Bandwidth capacity growth rate is expected to outpace traditional connectivity approaches by 2X (IP networks) and 10X (MPLS networks). And there is good reason for that – as you are probably experiencing, the increasing requirements from digital transformation are forcing enterprises to find more consistent, reliable and secure methods to interconnect clouds, data, people and locations…and a growing number of things via IoT adoption.

Virtual Connection via an Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric

The Equinix Fabric™ is a way to directly, securely and dynamically connect distributed infrastructure and digital ecosystems on Platform Equinix™. By leveraging a global, software-defined networking (SDN) platform, the Equinix Fabric enables direct physical and virtual connection between counterparties in Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers around the world. The Fabric helps enterprises and service providers customize their connectivity to employees, partners and customers through an interface that provides all the benefits companies have come to expect from “as-a-service” models, including real-time provisioning via a portal or API using pay-as-you-go billing increments. For example, if you want to access a cloud platform that is not currently available at your location, you can do so via self-service virtual connects.

Enterprises can more easily consume network and cloud services via Equinix Fabric by:

  • Simplifying network topologies and operating processes by using a single network interface and process to access multiple networks and cloud service providers (CSPs)
  • Lowering capital costs via shared port efficiency using multiple virtual connections via a single physical port
  • Reaching worldwide edge deployment destinations via IBX data center interconnection
  • Providing on-demand, real-time SDN programmable connection provisioning
  • Enabling more reliable and consistent bandwidth and security than the internet

Virtual connects are best for the following use cases:

  • Migrating to hybrid and multicloud cloud infrastructures
  • Serving customers and applications with variable needs and service consumption rates
  • Handling variable volumes of data replication and deploying business continuity and disaster recovery environments
  • Deploying inter-metro interconnectivity to access various cloud platforms in remote locations

Equinix Fabric is best described as a one-to-many virtual connect option for companies that are trying to cost-effectively expand and scale their IT infrastructures to meet the growing demands of digital business.

Direct Connection via Cross Connects

Equinix Cross Connects provide physical interconnection inside an Equinix IBX® data center that ensures ultra-high performance network reliability and redundancy through a one-to-one physical connection. This is a more direct and secure option than the internet because there is no “opening” for competitors or bad actors to gain access to the connection since there are no switches between you and your destination. It is also a more performant and scalable option since you can push more bandwidth through a choice of media (CAT5/6, COAX, Fiber CAT5/6, COAX, Fiber) and connection speeds (1G/10G/100G).

Direct cross connects are perfect for private, dedicated interconnection to participating cloud providers because no one else can jump onto that cross connect, making them extremely secure against cyberattacks. However, only certain CSPs provide direct cross connects (such as AWS, Google, IBM, Oracle, and VMware) and each requires a dedicated port that needs manual/physical provisioning. This means that there is more operational overhead than required with Equinix Fabric.

The benefits of cross connects for enterprises include:

  • Dedicated capacity to support scaling your workloads and traffic to specific counterparties
  • Consistent fixed costs for easier OPEX and CAPEX planning
  • Lowest latency interconnection – faster than the internet or Equinix Fabric, since it is a dedicated, non-shared connectivity model
  • Greater security with no intermediary switches or routers

Direct connects scale and provide consistent, high-throughput needs for use cases such as:

  • Electronic trading exchanges that need to run hundreds of cross connects between servers inside Equinix IBX data centers to maximize the number of trades processed per second and eliminate milliseconds of latency that can cost traders millions of dollars
  • Media and digital content companies that need to stream videos from multiple sites using a single cross connect to link to the major international carriers and ISPs that serve their users
  • Cloud providers that want to reduce latency between their end users and their services by deploying cross connects to the networks and ISPs serving their end users within the same building
  • Companies handling sustained high volumes of data replication and deploying business continuity and disaster recovery environments

Cross connects provide a direct, one-to-one interconnection between counterparties and can deliver a more secure and high-performance experience than the public internet. With sufficient bandwidth going between your location and a single destination, cross connects can reduce your networking cost at scale.

Combining Equinix Fabric and Cross Connects

There may be cases where leveraging both virtual and direct connects would be beneficial. For example, if you are at the point of needing a better interconnection model to your cloud service providers, Equinix Fabric is a great solution to quickly and easily improve performance and control when accessing most clouds and business partners – especially for multicloud global needs. However, if you are quickly scaling your applications with specific partners, you’d probably want to deploy a cross connect solution to get the maximum bandwidth throughput and performance.

For more information on how you can reach everywhere, interconnect everyone and integrate everything using interconnection solutions on Platform Equinix, check out our Platform Equinix Vision paper.

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