A Report from the Front Lines of Interconnection

Brenden Rawle

The life of an Interconnection Specialist or Peering Lead at Equinix is busy at the best of times. However, as spring turns into summer, the good and the great of the network and content provider community are engaged in a frenzied criss-crossing of land and sea as they attend some of the most important interconnection events of the year, and we’re right alongside them.

Between early April and the end of May, many of us see more of the inside of airports then we do our own homes, but attendance is well worth the effort. The reason: Interconnection is now widely seen as the glue that holds the digital economy together, and by working in partnership at these events to build new services and best practices, we ensure our customers will reap the rewards.

Many of us kicked things off in April by heading to the Global Peering Forum in Seattle, where one keynote session was a panel discussion on trends developing around and impacting interconnection today. Experts from the likes of Akamai, Twitch and LinkedIn were on hand to share their thoughts. Here are three areas of emphasis that hit home with me:

  • You don’t need to pay people to talk to each other.
  • Interconnection allows for innovation, resilience and a competitive environment that places choice at the forefront.
  • A successful interconnection strategy will often rely on a mixture of different forms of interconnection and content delivery.

This final point is something we see every day at Equinix. Depending on variables such as volume, popularity, security, performance requirements and cost, internet content passes between relevant networks over a range of options. Those include Internet Exchange (IX), Private Network Interconnect (PNI), Internet Transit and On-Net Content Delivery Network (CDN) caches. And as their usage grows, so does the need for interconnection.

The Global Interconnection Index, published by Equinix, recently reported that installed interconnection bandwidth capacity is expected to reach 5,000 terabits per second by 2020, a 4x increase from 2016. It is only possible to satisfy this level of demand with infrastructure across the full range of interconnection options mentioned above. Where you deploy your platform is key and choice is paramount!

So location matters, and that was also on the agenda as the community decamped to Galway in Ireland for the 32nd Euro-IX meeting. At this event, Equinix’s Senior Vice President of Business Development Michael Winterson took the stage with LINX CEO, John Souter. Equinix and LINX have long worked to bring resilience to the UK internet, a subject that Michael and John touched on, and this blog delved into last year. The delegates were most excited about the discussion around how interconnection and especially Internet Exchange (IX) platforms are playing a crucial role in enabling digital transformation for enterprises.

The IX has not traditionally been a hunting ground for enterprises, but in a modern digital world, they recognize they need more control and security over their internet content and SaaS applications. In some specific enterprise markets, we are also seeing the first sign of enterprises using IX platforms to connect to peer organizations within their own industry. As providers of some of the largest IX platforms in the world, both LINX and Equinix agreed that we are entering a new phase for Internet Exchanges, with a broader range of participants and new interconnection models coming to the fore.

But it is not all fun and games. With rapidly growing interconnection and new models of collaboration, we see greater opportunity for bad actors to take the stage. That means more responsibility than ever is placed on service providers of all types to deploy security features and ensure that services and customers are always protected. The stakes have never been higher, and the industry reflected on this at the recent RIPE-76 event in Marseille, France, where Job Snijders of NTT gave a debrief on a recent high-profile internet hijack involving a major cloud service.

One salient point was how interconnection needs a rigorous security and policy overlay, and Snijders used the recent incident to illustrate good and bad security approaches. Equinix was on the right side of the fence here, and the BGP prefix filtering on our IX MLPE server estate was noted as a key example of security best-practice that helped mitigate the impact of this large-scale event.

Equinix has recently stepped in with a new security offering attached to interconnection, our SaaS service SmartKey. This service addresses the key challenge of encryption and security across perhaps today’s most high-profile interconnection segment – multicloud. SmartKey is mitigation of risk combined with performance in a single package.

Final stop: Amsterdam – one of the world’s true interconnection mega-hubs and home to AMS-IX, a giant of global interconnection and a long-valued partner and customer of Equinix. Their MORE-IP event was held in late May, and I was pleased to speak on a panel that looked at 5G. We discussed how 5G represents a staggering improvement on previous mobile networking and interconnection technologies. It will become critical national infrastructure and a key enabler for the next-generation of mobile-enabled services, particularly anything that falls under the broad church of Internet of Things (IoT).

It is not just in the mobile network where interconnection will take off on the back of a 5G rollout. New players, consumers and providers need interconnection to the myriad of devices and consumers that populate the 5G realm, and this third-party interconnection works best at the key hub sites where networks and content already meet. Whether it is factories of the future and industrial internet, or automotive and driverless cars, IoT ecosystems will need a home where massively dispersed assets can be controlled. That is where Equinix comes with interconnection options to support the IoT ecosystem. We call this the IoT Service Core, and it contains the IoT Cloud Gateway, a place where next-generation interconnection will grow and thrive.

We have seen that around the world and across industries, interconnection is emerging as a key asset in digital transformation. This transformation through interconnection is happening at Equinix, the home of the digital economy. Contact us today to start your journey!

Brenden Rawle
Brenden Rawle Director of Interconnection in EMEA