Cross Connects vs. Virtual Connects

Streamline secure network connectivity to an ecosystem of service providers and partners with physical and virtual connections

Ted Kawka
Justin Beck
Cross Connects vs. Virtual Connects

As the pace of the digital economy continues to accelerate, so do consumer expectations for faster transaction speeds. If we open an app or browser and don’t get instant results with a seamless experience, we simply close the app or browser and choose another option.

There’s usually not a single company to blame. Frequently, multiple providers operate behind the scenes to generate responses. Think about what’s involved with booking a reservation with a ride-hailing service from an app on your mobile device:

  • You initiate the ride request from the app and the app authenticates you.
  • GPS locates where you are and determines the distance to your destination.
  • GPS estimates how long it will take the driver to pick you up and drop you off.
  • The app calculates and presents a quote you accept or reject.
  • GPS guides the driver to your location and then to your destination.
  • You make payment via the app.

Initiating the request starts with your mobile device service provider and then may traverse several networks before landing on a ride hailing company server–in milliseconds. The same applies for responses sent to and from you in the app. The proximity of the company’s servers to you and the driver will determine the level of latency. If app responses take too long, you will simply close the app and choose another service provider. This networking complexity impacts financial services transactions, content delivery, digital advertising, online gaming, and other digital services.

Physical and virtual dedicated interconnection provides direct access to an ecosystem of networks and enterprises, cloud service providers and digital content providers—within a data center or across the globe. Enterprises and cloud and network service providers also use these connections to solve various challenges. This blog will discuss the factors that guide decisions on when to use physical cross connects, virtual connections or both as essential components of your digital infrastructure.

How a dedicated one-to-one physical connection works

Cross connects are point-to-point cable links that provide businesses with high performance, low latency and secure network connections to partners and service providers. Cross connects help companies access network providers to efficiently distribute content or exchange data, deploy applications in the cloud and connect multiple infrastructures within a data center to minimize latency.

Cross connects offer flexibility; you can start with existing equipment and when it’s time to replace it, simply use the same cross connect. Multiple connection speeds and bandwidth capacity levels allow for the exchange of unlimited amounts of data. With cross connects, there’s a one-time flat fee for the cables—no metered connections. Businesses can order cross connects for setup typically within 24 hours.

When cross connects are the best option

There are certain types of industries that can benefit the most from cross connects.

  • Financial services: It comes down to milliseconds, especially for flash traders who may have a 30-millisecond advantage that allows them to access trades before the public does. This requires the closest proximity possible to stock exchanges.
  • Digital advertising: Connection speed matters, so ads must load as fast as possible to avoid slowing down web pages or applications. Otherwise, users will turn to another app or website.
  • Gaming: Low latency is crucial, as developers may position their games in the cloud or elsewhere with connections to many networks. They need to deliver a simultaneous experience to users worldwide with a latency of no more than 20 ms.

How one-to-many secure virtual connections work

Companies need to connect with partners such as cloud and network service providers wherever they do business. Private, software-defined interconnection provides companies with the option of aggregating multiple virtual connections on a single port, fast and securely. Access to ecosystems worldwide via reliable interconnection gives businesses more options to quickly adapt their distributed, digital infrastructure as business needs change–in minutes.

Interconnection helps companies connect with other digital services such as virtual network functions (VNFs) to deploy virtual firewalls, routers, SD-WAN gateways and load balancers in minutes, eliminating the wait time required for physical networking hardware. Dedicated Bare Metal as a Service (BMaaS) capabilities allow companies to deploy single-tenant compute and storage capabilities in proximity to end users and data sources at the edge. These OPEX-based cost models help businesses modernize their networks in real-time, allowing them to expand into new markets quickly and adapt networks in existing markets.

When one-to-many secure virtual connections are the top choice

Virtual connections support a wide range of use cases for enterprises and cloud and network service providers.

  • Enterprises enable hybrid multicloud networking, data center interconnection and SD-WAN deployments.
  • Cloud service providers connect with customers at the digital core, enable hybrid cloud at the digital edge and support multicloud use cases in ecosystems.
  • Network service providers rely on interconnection for connectivity to cloud, rapid service provisioning and network infrastructure agility.

Virtual connections help cut costs and lower complexity. They also allow companies to deploy redundant connections, ensuring high availability and business continuity.

Access physical and virtual connections on Platform Equinix

Thousands of companies worldwide have discovered the advantages of incorporating Equinix Cross Connects and Equinix digital services (Equinix Fabric®, Equinix Metal® and Network Edge) into their distributed digital infrastructure deployments. Accessible on Platform Equinix® in Equinix IBX® data centers around the world, these physical and virtual interconnection services make it easy to set up new connections or adjust existing ones on demand. Anytime you need to create a new physical or virtual connection, simply order it on the self-service customer portal.

Leveraging Physical and Virtual Connections 

Delivery of transport and transit circuits over physical cross connects (left), delivery of virtual circuits to cloud providers over Equinix Fabric ports (right).

Equinix APIs automate integrations with these and other Equinix digital services with minimal human intervention. You can use both virtual connections and physical cross connects to interconnect your cloud infrastructure via Equinix Fabric.

To learn more about how enterprises and service providers are using Equinix physical and virtual connections to achieve their digital transformation initiatives, read the Leaders’ Guide to Digital Infrastructure.


You may also be interested in reading:

Equinix Cross Connects data sheet

Equinix Fabric data sheet

Network Edge data sheet


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