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The Data Centers Are Talking: How Interconnected Data Centers Speed Up Digital Transformation

Data center interconnect platforms create simple, point-to-point optical paths that allow organizations to move enormous amounts of data between data centers at the lowest cost per bit.

October 29, 2019

Data-based decision making has filtered into nearly every facet of business across all sectors of the economy. And in the age of digital transformation, never has there been more data being produced. 

But data is increasingly diverse and varied — produced by an increasing number of devices and distributed over multiple data centers and cloud platforms. In fact, the typical enterprise is connected to approximately five public and private clouds, a figure that is expected to grow.

To begin to make sense of this data, data centers need to be able to talk to each other — sharing data and content, providing backups and enabling greater resiliency. 

The rise in network traffic and data generation has led to newer ways to build and construct data centers. Naturally, optical data center interconnect (ODCI) technologies, too, have evolved to enable high capacity, massive scalability, power efficiency and management simplicity.

As the name suggests, data center interconnect technology connects two or more physical data centers over short, medium or long distances using dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) optical connectivity

ODCI platforms create simple, point-to-point optical paths that allow organizations to move enormous amounts of data between data centers at the lowest cost per bit. As the world continues to move toward the cloud and traffic between data centers continues to rapidly increase, ODCI architecture supports operational efficiency allowing organizations to quickly monetize their network or services.

Real-time decision making

Without ODCI, data silos creep in, which create inefficiencies on a variety of levels. The more seamlessly data can be analyzed, used to build models and leveraged to deliver insights that are integrated into day-to-day workflows,the more rapidly organizations can innovate and make decisions on the fly.

ODCI connects routers and servers to each other or to multi-tenant data centers so end users and data can connect to storage and compute resources, cloud applications and cloud services. A ODCI platform can be built from the optical layer with DWDM technology; it can be part of a managed service provided by an operator; or it can be a solution an enterprise builds for itself.

No matter the use case, leveraging ODCI technologies can speed the delivery of new services, reduce operating costs, and improve flexibility and efficiency.

By interconnecting data centers, users can consume content on demand and gain access to information and entertainment anywhere, at any time.

The recent growth of ODCI is being fueled by content and cloud service providers such as Google, Amazon, Netflix and Facebook, which have fundamentally changed how data centers are utilized. Following suit, organizations of all kinds are using ODCI to piece together their own hybrid infrastructure to better connect customers and partners. 

  • Hospitals are using ODCI to meet rigorous business and clinical needs, seamlessly share data among providers, safely backup and store millions of records, and prepare for growth.
  • Financial services companies are using ODCI to support a full range of digital products — from digital money transfer to real-time payments and open banking via APIs.
  • Educational institutions are relying on ODCI to access and deliver digital content between internal and external data centers and their own campus facilities.
  • Countless other enterprises are leveraging ODCI to move IT resources to multi-tenant data centers and public clouds.

Optical networking is efficient, flexible, reliable and can scale virtually anywhere. But it’s a complex technology that, in most cases, has to be deployed over a large geography, which can prove challenging for business and IT decision makers alike.

World Wide Technology (WWT) offers a comprehensive approach to optical networking that affords customers carrier-grade implementations of innovative, industry-leading solutions that reduce operating costs and accelerate revenue growth. 

Our Optical Networking practice includes experts with deep industry knowledge and experience in designing and deploying optical networks. Using our state-of-the-art Advanced Technology Center (ATC), we’re able to showcase various optical platforms on their own or in conjunction with other network components. We can even set up custom test scenarios based on customer requirements to ensure the solution will deliver specific business outcomes. And through our Global Integration Centers, we can stage fully integrated solutions prior to deployment, which allows us to accelerate deployment, increase predictability and cut costs by: 

  • Consolidating hardware.
  • Reducing the number of packages shipped to site.
  • Identifying dead-on-arrival (DOA) equipment.
  • Pre-configuring solutions, so less time is spent in the field during deployment.

With the right combination of solutions, enterprises can ensure the smooth transport of critical assets across any distance and among any number of data centers. Once speedy and reliable connections are in place, geographically separate data centers can easily share resources and balance workloads. 

Optical ODCI deployment scenarios

Inside large data centers: Although ODCI is generally used to connect two geographically diverse data centers, the same technology can be deployed within a single location, such as a large data center building or a multi-tenant data center, to interconnect floors or co-location areas. High-speed coherent optics can reduce the number of fiber connections required between these areas to lower fiber connection fees and ongoing costs.

Internal ODCI model
Figure 1: Deploying ODCI in a single data center can reduce the number of fiber connections needed between co-location areas to lower costs. 

Campus interconnect, carrier-neutral provider or data center farms: ODCI can connect data centers inside a campus or other wholesale data center premises. For example, ODCI can connect data centers from different companies co-located on the same campus. Or research and education can use ODCI to interconnect facilities within a large university or research campus.

Interconnecting data centers across such environments ensures flexible, fast connectivity while maximizing investment in deployed fiber and existing photonic line infrastructure. ODCI speeds service activation, and platforms optimized for ODCI can reduce footprint, power and cooling across data centers campus wide.

Campus interconnect ODCI
Figure 2: Deploying ODCI between data centers in metro areas is challenging but can provide data replication in the event of a disaster.

Metro ODCI: As cloud and content providers attempt to move content and services closer to the enterprise and end-user, data centers are popping up all over major metropolitan areas. 

Connecting data centers in metro areas can bring challenges, such as restricted space, limited access to fiber, stringent power consumption and heat dissipation requirements, a mix of old and new fiber plants, and limited operational windows. 

Metro interconnect distances typically vary from a few to a hundred kilometers, and they’re typically are deployed across simple, point-to-point links. If multiple sites are connected to a larger central data center, then a hub-and-spoke architecture may be used. The hub location may be mirrored with a secondary data center for operational continuity purposes (Figure 3). This provides data replication from various corporate sites, branch offices or smaller data centers to primary/secondary data centers for disaster recovery and continuity applications. 

Recently, data centers have evolved to make use of spine-and-leaf architectures to arrange servers and switches to optimize data flows to be more predictable, consistent and fault tolerant. In some cases, these architectures extend across links between nearby data centers, and packet technology is used across the interconnect paths. Layer 2 and Layer 3 packet switching can segregate data based on its community of interest and the location of the data within the cloud. Combining packet-based techniques with optical network technology helps make efficient use of links (intra- or inter-data center) to maximize performance and minimize expense.

Hub and spoke model
Figure 3: If multiple sites are connected to a larger central data center, then a hub-and-spoke architecture may be used. The hub location may be mirrored with a secondary data center for operational continuity purposes.

Long-haul ODCI: Large, mega data centers often reside in remote locations with access to power sources and lower-cost real estate. These mega data centers provide massive amounts of storage and compute resources and are poised to light thousands of fiber pairs over the coming years, driving huge bandwidth requirements between locations that are often geographically diverse.  

Long-haul ODCI
Figure 4: Long-haul ODCI connect massive data centers that are to handle massive bandwidth requirements in diverse locations.

Sub-sea ODCI: Data center operators have invested in continental-scale and international networks. Globalization, a booming digital economy, access to lower-cost energy and real estate costs are fueling the creation of data centers and content hubs around the globe in strategic locations. 

As business and connectivity requirements become more global, there’s a need to interconnect these data centers across distances that stretch from terrestrial networks across oceans. This type of ultra-long-haul connectivity requires high performance ODCI technology to maximize the capacity provided across the subsea cable and enable longer-distance subsea connectivity across the Atlantic or Pacific.             

Sub-sea ODCI
Figure 5: Sub-sea ODCI will become increasingly in demand as business continues to become more global.

Optical solutions are notorious for shipping dozens of individual packages that require significant time and expertise to assemble on-site. Using our Global Integration Centers, we can stage customer solutions from a single node to an entire network. Just plug it in and it’s ready to go. 

We also offer a number of additional services designed to ensure smooth deployment — from assessing the health of fiber and site readiness to installation services and refresh upgrades.

Always-on culture

We live in a global economy that demands consumable, on-demand content — anywhere, anytime, with the highest levels of quality. Losing access to a data center can be disastrous to revenue and reputation. 

Interconnecting data centers is vital to enabling applications to keep business running smoothly and delivering content to keep end users happy. 

Learn more about WWT’s Optical Networking practice and explore our ODCI labs to gain hands-on experience to make sure your network architecture can meet the needs of the ever-growing amounts of data being produced.