data center interconnect (DCI)

What is data center interconnect (DCI)?

Data center interconnect (DCI) technology links two or more data centers together to share resources. There are many options for DCI connectivity. The selection process depends on 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 primarily used interconnection to support business continuity and disaster recovery. Today, that use has shifted to include day-to-day operations, which enables data center operators to manage their resources and support key load balancing functions. DCI technology is critical to help enterprises scale their infrastructure as internet traffic grows and cloud migration becomes 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, that they have more east-west traffic moving data from one data center system to another, 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.

Depiction of DCI technology connecting two separate data centers.
DCI technology links data centers together to share resources.

Benefits of DCI

DCI provides several benefits. DCI links enable stronger encryption of traffic to make information sharing more secure. DCI also enables companies to apply quality of service (QoS) and other policies to ensure performance. DCI gives organizations more flexibility when they allocate workloads because the technology supports multiple connection types.

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

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 virtual private LAN service (VPLS). Metro Ethernet is an option to connect data centers within an urban setting. Each option 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 use transfer protocols and compress traffic volume, which further enhances the DCI. Another option is to use dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) technology to extend the long-distance connection among data centers located far apart.

Editor's note: This article was republished in December 2022 to improve the reader experience.

This was last updated in December 2022

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