data center interconnect (DCI)

Data center interconnect (DCI) is a segment of the networking market that focuses on the technology used to link two or more data centers so the facilities can share resources. There are many options for DCI connectivity and selecting the right one depends upon a wide range of variables, including the location of the data centers, the distance between data centers, bandwidth and availability requirements, the capabilities of local service providers and security concerns.

Previously, companies used interconnection primarily to support business continuity and disaster recovery. But today, that use has shifted to include day-to-day operations, enabling data center operators to manage their resources and support key load balancing functions. DCIs are critical in helping enterprises and scale their infrastructure as internet traffic grows and cloud migration becomes increasingly vital.

Private cloud migration has created new network traffic flows. Companies previously mostly managed north-south traffic, information coming from outside the data center. Now, they have more east-west traffic, data moving from one data center system to another. Consequently, they need fewer external connections and more DCIs.

For public cloud vendors, the migration of applications toward third-party services also drives the need for DCIs. Cloud providers are building hyperscale data centers, which constantly need more bandwidth and capacity to accommodate traffic.

Benefits of DCI

DCI provides several benefits. DCI links allow for stronger encryption of traffic so the sharing of information is more secure, and they allow companies to apply quality of service (QoS) and other policies to ensure performance. Organizations have more flexibility in deciding how to allocate workloads because DCI supports multiple connection types.

In addition, DCI technology lets organizations share resources, dynamically tapping into both physical and virtual resources across multiple sites and enabling them to load balance their network infrastructures as needed.

Data center interconnect

Data center interconnect options

DCIs connect data centers over short and long distances. Organizations can consider various applications to build their interconnections over high-speed Ethernet or optical interfaces on dedicated fiber or wavelength services.

A DCI requires a high-speed WAN link, including MPLS, Ethernet and VPLS. Metro Ethernet is an option to connect data centers within an urban setting. Each of these options offers high bandwidth, low latency and Layer 2 or Layer 3 access among data centers.

Enterprises can use WAN optimization appliances on each endpoint to more efficiently use transfer protocols and compress traffic volume to further enhance the DCI. Another option is to use Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing technology to extend the long-distance connection among data centers located far apart.

This was last updated in April 2018

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