Equinix has created an empire by building data center hubs where companies can interconnect their networks – nerve centers of the internet and private corporate networks. In many places around the world, an Equinix facility is where a single customer can access an unrivaled amount of carriers, cloud companies, CDNs, and all other types of service providers who help ensure their applications or content reaches their intended end users.
And while simply being inside such a nerve center already makes a network architect’s life easier (because they can reach all the networks you need from one place), turning every link up is still a complicated and lengthy process. After they’ve negotiated the terms and signed a contract with the service provider, the colocation provider has to provision a physical interconnect, and it may take days, weeks, and sometimes months, for the link to go live.
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In today’s world, where customers can provision cloud servers almost instantly, and where applications are so highly distributed that companies need to interconnect with more networks and in more places than ever, those lengthy connection provisioning lead times have become a problem. It’s a problem a handful of startups recently formed to address, and it’s a problem Equinix itself is hoping to solve for its customers with a new service it announced today.
The service is called Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric, and it aims to do to connection provisioning what Amazon Web Services did to installing servers in a data center. Using new software-defined networking capabilities in the previously existing Equinix Cloud Exchange platform, customers can choose the network they want to connect to, make a few mouse clicks, and have the link up and running in a few minutes, James Staten, Equinix’s global head of market development, said in an interview with Data Center Knowledge.
Like they do for cloud infrastructure services, customers pay only for the amount of time they use the Exchange Fabric. A basic 5 megabit connection from Silicon Valley to Ashburn, for example, would cost about $350 per month, he said. Inside a single data center, a 5 megabit link will cost about $150 per month. The price goes up the more bandwidth you use and the longer distance your traffic needs to traverse.
Not only does it make network interconnection within a single facility faster and easier, it does the same for linking network nodes that sit in different cities and in different metro areas. Instead of setting up an agreement with AT&T, for example, to carry traffic between your storage cluster in Dallas and your cloud servers in Ashburn, you make a few selections through Equinix’s online portal (or your own interface that uses Equinix’s API), and Equinix handles the rest.
“It’s that facility-to-facility, metro-to-metro [connectivity] that’s really interesting and powerful,” Eric Hanselman, chief analyst at 451 Research, said, commenting on the announcement. “The challenge right now is that for existing companies to be able to construct connectivity even facility to facility is relatively complex.”
Enabling Edge Strategies for IoT
Staten anticipates the most common use cases for the new service will be Internet of Things applications: connecting data sources, such as sensor-bearing equipment or connected cars, to cloud service providers and Equinix enterprise customers’ own systems.
Manufacturers need to collect data from their products in every metro those products are sold into for quick analysis. They don’t usually do analytics in-house, so they need to connect to cloud services like Salesforce, AWS, or Microsoft Azure in those metros, he explained. Hypothetically, data from GM vehicles on the road in Dallas would be aggregated in an Equinix data center in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro, where it would be ingested by a cloud provider for analytics. Some data would then travel back to the vehicles and some would end up on GMs servers, either in the same Equinix data center or elsewhere.
Other potential use cases include movie studios, which nowadays can use dozens of contractors around the world to make a movie happen. They use private interconnection to ship content from contractor to contractor during the production process, when security and performance are essential, Staten said.
Financial services companies need to connect not just to exchanges but to all other players in the ecosystem; healthcare organizations make extensive use of private connectivity because of the strict privacy rules they have to comply with; and any company that needs to connect to devices at the edge of its network, be it to support mobile apps for its employees or for its customers, should be able to use the new Equinix service as part of that edge connectivity strategy, he said.
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