Today’s network service providers (NSPs) are always looking for ways to better serve their customers in more places across the world. However, it’s a simple fact that no one network can be everywhere customers need services. For the NSPs, expanding their service reach into new markets by deploying new physical network infrastructure is a costly and time-consuming proposition, especially during an era of widespread supply chain disruption. For most NSPs, the potential return on investment doesn’t justify such an approach.
Network-to-network interfaces (NNIs) offer a quicker and easier way for NSPs to begin expanding their Ethernet services, helping them reach customer endpoints in markets where it would otherwise be complicated, costly and time-consuming to establish services. By connecting their network with the network of an in-market partner, NSPs can provide Ethernet services where their customers want them, with no CAPEX-intensive infrastructure buildout required.
The value of using NNIs to unlock local Ethernet services in more places has long been recognized by NSPs; however, they also recognize that implementing and managing NNIs with many different partners can be a time-consuming and inefficient process. With recent solution developments such as Equinix Fabric™ software-defined interconnection services, NSPs can now set NNIs quicker, easier and more cost-effectively than ever before. As a result, they are now viable for a much wider range of use cases.
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Setting up NNIs was traditionally a highly manual, capital-intensive process
In the past, the idea of bringing together many different NSPs on a third-party NNI platform was widely considered impractical. For one thing, most NSPs wanted to maintain end-to-end control over their own NNIs in order to avoid service interruption and ensure their SLAs were being met. In addition, Carrier Ethernet Standards were still very much a work in progress, so there was a lot of inconsistency in how different providers deployed Ethernet access points on their networks.
For these reasons, when two providers needed to create an NNI to enable Ethernet access on each other’s networks, they typically relied on a physical cross connect deployed in a specific location. That location would have to be a metro where both companies already had a presence, so that each party could set a dedicated port facing the other. At the time, this type of connectivity generally made good sense for relatively high-capacity use cases, such as interconnecting MPLS services on a 10 Gbps circuit.
This was also during a time when networks were generally much more static and predictable than they are today—not to mention driving higher profit margins. Services didn’t change as frequently, so when two providers set up an NNI between them, it would often stay in place unchanged for many years at a time. For this reason, NSPs were generally content to continue relying on cross connects for NNIs, despite the inherent drawbacks around CAPEX and network agility.
Why the time is now for NSPs to start using a third-party NNI platform
Today, things are different, and it’s much more difficult to make a business case for setting NNIs via cross connects. For one thing, in an era when all parties are relying on well-established Carrier Ethernet Standards and interoperability should be a given, there’s no reason to continue treating each new NNI project as though it has unique technical requirements that must be manually set between the two parties.
Also, 100 Gbps ports are widely available today. Dedicating these high-capacity ports to relatively low-bandwidth use cases such as local customer Ethernet access will almost certainly result in “stranded” CAPEX spend. In contrast, using a virtual interconnection platform provides a much more cost-effective option. These virtual connections can be used to aggregate many 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps access circuits on a single 100 Gbps port, allowing providers to create all the different NNIs they need while also keeping CAPEX low. Additionally, carriers can use link aggregation (LAG) across multiple 100Gbps ports to enable seamless capacity expansion.
Software-defined interconnection can help fulfill the true promise of a global, interoperable multiparty platform for NNIs. Equinix Fabric has been supporting better, faster hybrid multicloud architectures for years, and now it’s doing the same for NNI connectivity. Instead of requiring dedicated ports facing each other in the same metro, Equinix Fabric enables remote interconnection from anywhere across our global footprint of Equinix IBX® data centers. This means that you can set your NNI from wherever you are, to wherever your partner NSP is, without having to stand up new physical network infrastructure to do so.
Equinix Fabric supports greater network agility on a global scale
Compared to their predecessors, modern NSPs have a much greater need for network flexibility and agility—demand driven by a customer base that’s increasingly distributed and digital. The old way of doing things required paperwork to be passed back and forth between the two parties, meaning that even the simplest service update could take weeks to fully execute.
Using Equinix Fabric for NNIs helps address this issue as well. Automation capabilities are built into Equinix Fabric by design, supporting greater speed and agility. Direct connections between NSPs can be created in a matter of minutes from an intuitive self-service web portal. As customer demands change over time, Equinix Fabric connections can be automated to change along with them. NSPs can use Equinix Fabric APIs to quickly and easily set up automated provisioning. This may also give NSPs a highly effective method for allowing customers to “bring their own connection.”
Partnering with Equinix to stand up NNIs also maximizes your freedom of choice. Any two NSPs that are currently on Equinix Fabric can use it to set NNIs between themselves, without having to be colocated. Equinix Fabric is available in more than 50 metros across the globe, giving you access to hundreds of network, communication, security, and cloud providers from wherever you are.
Equinix Fabric global locations
To learn more about how secure, private interconnection on Equinix Fabric can enable better results for network service providers worldwide, read the Equinix Fabric for service providers data sheet.
Or, to get more detailed information about how you can start using Equinix Fabric for a better, faster approach to network connectivity, get in touch to speak with a sales specialist today.