Digital Corridors

The New Digital Silk Road Runs Across These European Markets

How Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris metros are advancing digital traffic exchange throughout Europe and beyond

Matthew George
Martin Atkinson
The New Digital Silk Road Runs Across These European Markets

The Silk Road refers to a network of routes used by traders to exchange goods and ideas among diverse cultures for more than 1,500 years — from when the Han dynasty of China opened trade in 130 B.C.E. until the Ottoman Empire ended trade with the West in 1453 C.E. The Silk Road extended 6,437 kilometers (4,000 miles) across Eurasia, from the Black Sea to the Himalayas. Towns along the route grew into multicultural cities and the exchange of information gave rise to new technologies and innovations that would change the world.

Regional digital corridors are creating today’s digital silk roads. European metro centers such as Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris (FLAP) are home to some of the world’s largest business centers, industry ecosystems and internet exchange (IX) hubs, which include Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers. The total maximum IX peak traffic for Equinix Internet Exchange worldwide (in aggregate) is 19 Tbps at the time of this writing. Equinix Internet Exchange is the largest IP peering platform in the world, passing more traffic than any other.

The time for a digital-first strategy is now.

The Global Interconnection Index (GXI) is the industry’s leading source of data and insight on interconnection and its increasing impact on the digital world.

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Interconnection is driving digital transformation

Impressive as these figures are, private internet peering (physical interconnection) across Platform Equinix exchanges ten times more traffic than the Equinix Internet Exchange. Interconnection is the direct and private traffic exchange between two or more parties, inside a carrier-neutral colocation data center.

Along the FLAP digital corridor, private interconnection is advancing Enterprise and Service Provider digital transformation, according to the Global Interconnection Index (GXI) Volume 5, a market study recently published by Equinix. FLAP core metros are forecast to make up 75% of the total interconnection bandwidth[i] capacity — 3,994 Tbps — in EMEA by 2024. The remaining private interconnection traffic is estimated at edge metros such as Madrid, Stockholm, Milan, Dublin and Zurich, where there is the greatest CAGR projection as companies distribute their digital infrastructure to serve an increasing number of edge use cases and business initiatives (see chart below).

EMEA Core and Edge Metro Interconnection Bandwidth Capacity (Tbps) Growth Rates
(2020 – 2024)

The digital core is where organizations create the foundation for their digital platform. Digital edge is where an organization’s digital presence meets the physical world, enabling local proximity to customers, employees, endpoints and intelligent operations. Digital ecosystems are where organizations participate in the digital economy, leveraging networks’ effects by building composable business models, collaborating with data, subscribing and offering digital services, and transacting in marketplaces at scale. The GXI report provides critical insights into where the greatest interconnection growth is by core and edge metros and industry ecosystems to guide enterprise and service provider digital-first strategies.

Driving the 46% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in EMEA interconnection bandwidth capacity (5,327 Tbps) over 5 years is the expansion of a wide range of industry ecosystems — specifically in the FLAP metros, which uniquely offer different industry ecosystems that are driving this interconnection bandwidth growth:

  • Frankfurt is increasingly attracting high numbers of international brands such as Procter & Gamble, Accenture and ING. German enterprises in the automotive, healthcare and financial sectors, are creating new demand through their use of technologies such as AI and IoT, and driving a local market for managed services and Cloud & IT Services. Its top three enterprise ecosystems by interconnection bandwidth CAGR are Industrial Services (52.6%), Wholesale & Retail (49.1%) and Consumer Services (49.1%).
  • London is the de facto digital and interconnection hub in Europe. A dense financial, commercial and industrial center make it the largest core metro in EMEA. Still in its early days, Brexit has yet to have an effect on London’s leadership as an interconnection hub or financial center. Its top three enterprise ecosystems by interconnection bandwidth CAGR are Industrial Services (53.9%), Wholesale & Retail (53.2%), and Healthcare & Life Sciences (53.2%).
  • Amsterdam is a financial center in its own right, as well as a major core location for network and cloud provider access. It has a rich ecosystem of high-tech material and manufacturing brands such as Nike, Philips Lighting and Heineken. Its top three enterprise ecosystems by interconnection bandwidth CAGR are Securities & Trading (50%), Healthcare & Life Sciences, (49.8%) and Industrial Services (48.7%).
  • Paris is the fastest growing core metro in interconnection bandwidth (47% CAGR) and is an important ecosystem location for Transportation and Energy & Utility companies. Though behind the other metros that make up FLAP, its interconnection bandwidth growth is shaping it into a competitive metro. Located a few hours southwest of Paris on the Atlantic coast, Bordeaux has thriving business enterprise and service provider ecosystems and is a strategically important subsea cable terminating point, drawing network and hyperscale cloud/SaaS providers to the region.  The top three enterprise ecosystems in Paris by interconnection bandwidth CAGR are Healthcare & Life Sciences (60.1%), Industrial Services (59.5%) and Consumer Services (57.8%).

Together, these interconnected digital core, ecosystem and edge locations make up a thriving digital corridor —connecting FLAP core, ecosystem and edge metros across EMEA and beyond into the Americas, Asia-Pacific and down into Africa.

The subsea digital corridor between Europe and MENA

Eighty-three percent of the Middle East’s internet bandwidth is connected to Europe — with nearly 80% of it being content and digital media (CDM).[ii]  This exploding digital demand is mainly from the consumption of video traffic coming from Europe’s FLAP metros into MENA. The submarine cable map below highlights the MENA region’s reliance on European destinations for public and private traffic exchange.

For example, our partnership with Vodafone, the world’s leading fixed and mobile communications provider, created a new subsea cable interconnection hub in Genoa, Italy (GN1). GN1 will serve as a strategic gateway for the 2Africa subsea cable system, coined “the cable of life,” connecting Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Enterprise and service providers from around the world can gain access to both terrestrial and subsea interconnection routes via Equinix Fabric™, which connects digital infrastructure and services on demand at software speed via secure, software-defined interconnection on Platform Equinix®.

Source: Telegeography

The digital “silk road” is endless

The expansive digital corridor extending from the FLAP metros out to the further edges of MENA and the beyond demonstrates that this new silk road has legs for future business growth and innovation.  Vibrant core, ecosystems and edge metro hubs, along with a growing global internet exchange, are driving greater public and private interconnection capacity demand that will fuel new digital corridors from Milan to Mumbai.

See which digital corridor your transformation journey will lead you down by reading the GXI report Vol. 5.



[i] Interconnection bandwidth is a measure, calculated in bits/sec, of the capacity provisioned to privately and directly exchange traffic between two parties, inside carrier-neutral colocation data centers.

[ii] TeleGeography, Global Internet Geography Regional Analysis: Middle East, 2021. [Gated]

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Matthew George Director, Equinix Research Group, EMEA
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Martin Atkinson Senior Manager of Peering and Interconnection EMEA
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