Could Interconnection be the missing link in digital transformation?
Connectivity has become a critical component for an enterprises digital strategy. To take advantage of the benefits of hybrid cloud, multi-cloud, and mobile-first environments, enterprises will need to take a flexible approach to connectivity, enabling them to scale as needed.
A central point of interconnection between carriers, clouds, content and application service providers obtained within the ecosystems of vendor-neutral data centres can provide the essential foundation for enabling network architecture to take advantage of digital opportunities.
Find out what the data centre trends driving digital transformation in Africa are by reading this whitepaper.
An Introduction to Interconnection
Today, many enterprises are moving toward the consumption of IT on demand within a hybrid cloud environment – using a mix of public cloud, private cloud, multiple software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors, and company-owned resources. It follows that network architecture is a critical component of this paradigm – carefully constructed to meet both performance and security requirements. A move to an Interconnection Defined Architecture is needed.
Organisations will adapt their network architecture as network options rapidly evolve and respond to multi-cloud requirements by establishing “direct” connections with cloud providers. “Direct”, in this context, refers to a one-to-one relationship over a physical or virtual network connection rather than the public Internet and MPLS type connectivity.
Connected Is Not The Same As Interconnected
To extract the maximum value from network investments, enterprises should think in terms of interconnection, rather than simple connectivity (or bandwidth). In its simplest form, interconnection occurs when multiple carriers, clouds, content, enterprises, and application service providers connect directly between edge routers or switches on each network. Interconnection is achieved through structured fibre cabling or virtual circuits (VLANs) within a data centre facility.
Inside the vendor-neutral data centre, the interconnection of multiple clouds, customers, content providers, and network service providers presents a unique opportunity to efficiently integrate services and business processes. Interconnection should be an essential element of enterprise IT strategy, yet the options are not always understood.
What Is Interconnection?
Network connectivity options for the enterprise have evolved in line with businesses changing needs over the past two decades. This evolution cycle is gaining momentum in response to changing business models, highlighted with the sudden shift to remote working in 2020 in response to the pandemic. This makes interconnection more critical than ever to the modern enterprise.
As enterprise workloads have migrated out of private data centres and into the public cloud, the interconnection between a diverse set of technology assets has become a focus. This hybrid network infrastructure has resulted in enterprises’ needing to connect their private clouds or data centres to each other as well as their public cloud instances. Interconnection allows businesses to optimise the sharing of resources across multiple sources, including processing power, storage, and data archives.
An interconnection focused network architecture also provides lower latency, higher availability and more secure connections.
How Does Interconnection Differ From Connectivity?
Connectivity is most often associated with bandwidth, whereas interconnection is associated with connections made within and across data centres. Cross-connects and virtual cross-connects are that the different interconnection types.
What is a Cross-Connect?
A cross-connect is a simple, direct, secure connection made between two parties within a data centre. Often it is a simple physical cable connecting party A to party B. These days it can also be virtual: a software-defined-connection between party A and party B over Ethernet, allowing high speed, private interconnection. Cross-connects enable businesses to connect to service providers or other partners directly without any “middleman”. Though there are different kinds of cross-connects, it is generally the most secure and efficient way to connect to services.
What Are The Benefits Of An Interconnection Strategy?
Traditionally the enterprise connected to a backbone network, which then enabled connection to their assets and other locations. Today’s enterprise requires access to multiple networks and clouds while participating in increasingly interconnected digital supply chains.
While connecting to your company’s infrastructure across different locations remains important, it has become increasingly critical to connect to other participants in your digital supply chain. Digital businesses that are interconnected realise exponentially more significant opportunities and value than those who go it alone.
〉 GROWTH + SPEED + SECURITY + SCALE + ENGAGEMENT + COST
Immediate business advantages for the interconnected enterprise:
✓ Growth – Interconnection gives the enterprise the ability to rapidly expand into new markets, tap into new channels and develop new engagement models.
✓ Speed – lower latency is the game today. If a network isn’t lightning fast, then it might as well be down. An interconnected network ensures that data travels through the most optimal paths in all instances. Also, with distributed network architecture, data doesn’t need to travel from a central point to all outposts but can be held where it’s needed. High availability data will sit on the edge, reducing the time to get it in front of the user, and less often accessed, non-latency sensitive data can be kept centrally. Interconnection further provides the capability to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to deploy new services.
✓ Security – Interconnection gives the ability to achieve the superior physical and virtual data security required to meet a changing environment’s growing risk and regulatory requirements.
✓ Scale – the ability and agility to do more with IT infrastructure. Support new and expanding business workloads conveniently and with a lower overhead cost.
✓ Engagement – the expertise to connect employees, partners and customers – wherever they are in the world – to what they need, using the devices, channels and services they prefer.
✓ Cost – since an interconnection defined architecture means converting long-haul/metro links into short/data centre links; costs are significantly reduced through low-cost cross-connects to other parties in the ecosystem.
Embracing cloud interconnection within a digital transformation strategy will realise additional benefits:
This, at first, can seem counterintuitive. If an interconnected network involves more network connections and endpoints than before, how can it be simpler to deploy? But, with cloud and outsourced networking services now becoming the norm, businesses can more easily gain the benefits without implementing anything additional as far as physical hardware, software or infrastructure is concerned.
More seamless collaboration:
With globally distributed teams, increased mobility and near-constant customer demand for service and support, a business can’t afford to ever grind to a halt. Interconnection ensures that teams can collaborate and remain efficient no matter where they are, what time it is or what device they want to use.
No reliance on a single vendor:
In the past, even the largest companies likely had one or two telco providers, one operating system, one hardware manufacturer and the same type of software across the entire organisation. Those days are over. Interconnection improves resilience, as issues that crop up with one vendor are doubtful to lead to lasting damages.
Less prone to errors or downtime:
Networks architected on interconnection are far more resilient than one supported just by point-to-point connections. Even if one part of the network goes down or is prone to error, an interconnected network’s meshed nature ensures that lines of communication and collaboration remain intact.
Capable of supporting IoT:
Few trends are having more of an impact than the Internet of Things. For all of these new endpoints to work as intended, they require interconnection to the rest of the network.
Read our whitepaper on Data Centre Trends to find out more about the data centre trends driving digital transformation in Africa
The Interconnection of Everything
The interconnected era’s increased requirements for real-time interaction, collaboration and participation bring significant new challenges to the enterprises’ doorstep. Specifically, the need for a new approach to interconnecting people, locations, clouds and data within an integrated platform overcomes today’s legacy connectivity models.
The interconnected enterprise is architected to react quickly, adapt to change and leverage digital ecosystems to create new value and growth in an increasingly competitive world.
Interconnection recommendations for enterprise:
1 Interconnection should be a critical part of any cloud computing strategy.
2 An essential way to improve network performance is to bypass the public Internet with direct connections to key services.
3 Direct connections to cloud providers are a reasonable first step to improving performance and security.
4 Enterprises will also consider establishing a presence in a vendor-neutral data centre facility with a cloud exchange platform, like Teraco’s Africa Cloud Exchange. This will support future use cases, including workload portability between cloud providers and the ability to connect to new business and technology partners quickly.
What Is The Future Of Interconnection?
⚙︎ In the short-term, networks and enterprise IT will become further meshed and even less centralised than before.
⚙︎ Multi-cloud interconnection is now the new norm.
⚙︎ As interconnection becomes mainstream, devices and applications that now seem far-fetched will become a reality.
⚙︎ Artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and ubiquitous support for wireless networks and devices will be seamlessly possible at scale thanks to greater interconnectivity.
⚙︎ To get this interconnectivity off the ground and keep it running, organisations will be required to leverage platforms located within ecosystem rich environments.
The interconnected enterprise shifts the connectivity paradigm from siloed business units and centralised IT to a flexible platform that is primed to consistently and reliably support: vastly distributed users and customers, increasingly global IT locations, highly collaborative business models, expanding amounts of data and a growing cloud universe.
The interconnected enterprise will be better positioned to react in real-time, adapt quickly to change and deliver unprecedented growth, innovation and value in ways that were once considered impossible.
Platform Teraco allows enterprises to build their digital architecture from a holistic platform of; resilient data centre services; local and global cloud; physical or virtual interconnection; peering; round the clock support services; and an open marketplace of connectivity and services from which to innovate and grow their business.
⚙︎ This content piece is an extract from the interconnection roadmap, you can download the full guide here.