• Technical Conference:  30 March – 03 April 2025
  • Exhibition: 01 – 03 April 2025
  • Moscone Center, San Francisco, California, USA

Data Center Interconnect: Different Models for Different Businesses

By Lisa Huff, Discerning Analytics

Data centers have become the largest target client sector for equipment manufacturers and components suppliers over the past ten years. Yet many of these vendors still do not understand that when it comes to data centers, none are the same. And, while there are large categories of data centers, within them there can be considerable variation in networking needs. In fact, some of the largest data centers network asset acquisition trends have changed drastically in this time period.
While DCI seems like a general term for any type of connection used in or between data centers, reality is that most of the industry uses it meaning between data centers that are in geographically distant area – or in other words, a metro or long-haul connection, but not inside the same building or even within the same campus. What type of connection this is and what equipment is used largely depends on the type of data centers being connected.
When most people think of data centers, they picture the large warehouses or carrier hotels that have been advertised by the likes of Amazon, Facebook, Equinix and others. In reality, most data centers are much smaller than this.
Discerning Analytics, LLC (DA) classifies data centers into three distinct market categories:  Enterprise (including SMBs), Colocation and Internet Data Center (IDC)/Cloud/Content Provider. DA uses these categories largely because they tend to have different types of data center networks. For DCI, IDCs are early adopters of new technology and push towards next-generation equipment because their business depends on fast and reliable data transmission and transport. Enterprises tend to adopt proven technology and only upgrade when absolutely necessary mainly because most of their data stays within the company – except those that sell on-line, but even those just need a reliable Internet connection and not state-of-the-art equipment. The data center for cloud and content providers is considered essential to their business, while most enterprises still treat data centers as a cost center. Because their clients are primarily enterprises, colocation facilities follow the same type of technology adoption as enterprises do inside their data center, but when connecting their data centers tend to be more like the IDCs.
A summary of the three categories of data centers and their associated DCI strategies is shown below.

Data Center Category DCI Strategies
Enterprise Usually leased fiber from a local or national carrier. Larger enterprises may own some of their own fiber connections, but most still lease from the likes of Verizon or AT&T.
Colocation Most are carrier neutral and provide a list of carriers that their clients can use to connect their own leased data center space back to their own premises and/or other data centers. Some large colocation providers like Equinix and Dupont Fabros also provide interconnection between their sites for clients that rent space in more than one site. This connection may be either through a carrier or a direct fiber owned or leased by the colocation facility. In the case of Verizon and CenturyLink, they own their own fiber networks. In addition, the connection can be made through the local Internet Exchange.
IDC/Cloud/Content Data center interconnect for IDCs vary. Google, while still leasing fiber from some carriers, has started building its own fiber network to connect its data centers. Most others lease fiber from carriers. Content providers started by just connecting their own data centers through Internet Exchanges Point (IXPs), but found that there were too many latency issues. Now, they use a combination of content delivery networks like Akamai and most recently, have started to move content to edge data centers so their DCI strategies are changing.
No one strategy is used for data center interconnect, but what is clear is that carriers are an integral part of the equation. Several different types of equipment can be used for DCI depending on the level of connectivity needed. Many equipment manufacturers including Alcatel-Lucent/Nokia, ADVA, Ciena and Infinera have focused development efforts on DCI and designed specific equipment just for it. All four will be exhibiting at OFC 2016.
All data center types are represented at OFC.  They are attendees, exhibitors and presenters. So whether you are looking for new products and solutions or want to stay current on market trends and technologies, you can hear from industry leaders, talk to vendors and compare products at OFC.

Lisa Huff is Principal Analyst at Discerning Analytics. She is a Certified Data Center Manager and electrical engineer focused on market research and analysis of data center technologies. You can see some of her work at www.discerninganalytics.com

Posted: 10 March 2016 by Lisa Huff, Discerning Analytics | with 0 comments

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The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition (OFC)  or its sponsors.