Providers of multi-tenant data centers (MTDCs) recognize that they need to improve their competitiveness and grow profitability by providing on-demand, software-defined interconnection to cloud providers, SaaS providers, and other ecosystem partners within their own facilities and at nearby carrier hotels. Some industry leaders have built home-grown software-defined interconnect platforms from scratch over many years, but many smaller players in the market can’t afford to match those investments nor take that much time to catch up. Fortunately, they don’t have to.
Fortunately, they don’t have to. Pluribus is leveling the playing field for smaller colocation and MTDC providers by making it simpler than ever to deploy and operate a software-defined interconnect platform to radically improve speed-to-interconnect while simultaneously lowering costs. The turnkey Pluribus interconnect fabric, built on the Adaptive Cloud Fabric and deployed and proven in multiple live production environments, is the right fit for any size MTDC.
Before I explain how we deliver on that promise, I’ll take a step back and address why it’s so critical for MTDC operators to build their own software-defined interconnect platforms.
The Hybrid Multi-cloud is Coming to the MTDC
It’s clear that the world is embracing hybrid multi-cloud strategies. As a 2018 IDC survey illustrated (figure 1), enterprises believe that more of their applications belong in a private cloud than in a public cloud – by a factor of 2:1.
Enterprises and managed cloud service providers are increasingly looking to colocation and MTDCs as the best environment for private cloud infrastructure and that makes the MTDC a critical component of their hybrid multi-cloud strategies.
There are plenty of reasons to locate private clouds in MTDCs, but among the most important is to optimize the balance between application performance and data sovereignty and security.
Data is the greatest asset of the digitally transformed enterprise. Data is also a target for competitors and hackers and a focus for all sorts of regulatory bodies. Enterprises naturally put a high priority on keeping their data close and secure and that makes them reluctant to put data in a public cloud. What’s more, data in one public cloud can’t easily be used by applications in other clouds, and migrating data from one cloud to another can be quite painful, not to mention costly due to “egress fees” charged by public clouds.
For maximum control and multi-cloud flexibility, enterprises need to keep their data in a private environment. But that doesn’t mean they can just keep it in the basement, far away from the public cloud. When an app in the cloud needs some of that data in the basement, latency goes up, user experience goes down, and users go away.
That leads enterprises to locate their data and many applications in MTDC locations that offer direct low-latency connections to cloud and SaaS providers while still maintaining the control of a fully private cloud environment.
A Growing Interconnected Ecosystem
Of course interconnection in MTDCs is about more than just linking clouds. As businesses accelerate their digital transformation, they increase their use of digital services and connections to suppliers and partners via application programming interfaces (APIs).
This drives the need for secure, robust, low-latency interconnects between partners, sometimes at rates up to 10 Gbps, that can be created and scaled on-demand to keep up with changing business needs. In this hyper-connected digital environment, legacy MPLS or IPSec connections are no longer adequate. By locating in an MTDC with a software-defined interconnect fabric, enterprises can dynamically grow and change their ecosystem at the speed of cloud.
The Hybrid Multi-cloud Value Chain for MTDCs
Some larger enterprises may choose to set up their own private cloud in a colocation environment. Others will choose a cloud service provider (CSP) to deliver a hosted private cloud service, benefiting from the CSP’s IT competence and shared infrastructure economies of scale. MTDC providers can cater to both enterprises and CSPs with some common capabilities.
As shown in Figure 2, the foundation of the hybrid multi-cloud value chain is a high-quality colocation environment. This is where many MTDC providers stop today, leaving the rest of the value chain to others. In this case, the MTDC provider recruits connectivity providers, including traditional carriers, dark fiber providers, and cloud interconnection specialists such as Megaport, but doesn’t provide interconnection services.
However, many MTDC providers would like to move up the value chain to improve their competitiveness and profitability. The next logical step in creating more value is to create an interconnect fabric that makes it simpler and more efficient to connect to clouds, XaaS providers and ecosystem partners. Some large MTDC providers have built customized software-defined networking (SDN) interconnect platforms, but many others have not, and most of them are not able to hire a large team of network engineers and software developers to duplicate the investments of someone like Equinix.
Building a Software-defined Interconnect Cloud Fabric
The good news is, they don’t have to. A Pluribus interconnect fabric delivers enterprise-grade reliability and out-of-the-box automation, network virtualization and analytics that make it much simpler to build and operate a cloud interconnect fabric.
The most basic interconnect fabric provides connectivity within a single data center site (Figure 3). Enterprises and cloud service providers first connect to the fabric at a suitable port speed, e.g. 10G or 100G. Thereafter, they have the ability to software define virtual connections to any other connected party, including public clouds, XaaS providers, ISPs and peering partners.
A well-designed software-defined interconnect fabric can enable many use cases:
- Direct connect to public clouds
- Direct connect to SaaS, DRaaS, etc.
- IP transit access
- Private and public peering
- Any other interconnect that traditionally required a physical cross-connect
Interconnect fabrics become even more valuable when stretched across multiple data center sites (Figure 4) enabling every tenant to directly connect to any cloud or other service provider in any site as if they were physically colocated on the same site. The resulting network effect substantially increases the value of every site in the fabric and enables more data center facilities to offer a rich ecosystem of interconnection partners previously available in only a few high-cost sites.
Delivering a software-defined interconnect fabric that can meet all of the above use cases – with high availability, security, and operational efficiency – requires several capabilities:
- Robust underlay networks: Scale-out layer 3 leaf-spine switching networks within each data center connected by redundant low-latency links between data centers
- Overlay network virtualization: VXLAN or equivalent encapsulation and virtualized layer 2 and 3 (L2/L3) network services that can stretch across a multi-site fabric and support the full range of MTDC use cases, including:
- Fully transparent Layer 2 “virtual cross-connects” enabling interconnections with no limitations on VLAN assignments as if directly connecting over a physical cross-connect
- Layer 2 multi-point bridge domains with flexible handoffs, including double tagging (QinQ) and VLAN translation
- Layer 3 virtual routing with anycast gateway
- Network segmentation: Isolation of customers and applications for multi-tenant security
- End-to-end automation and management:
A Pluribus interconnect fabric combines all of these capabilities into a single comprehensively integrated solution that is simple to deploy and manage. And that means the benefits of offering software-defined interconnection – increased competitiveness, revenues, and profit margins – are within reach of any MTDC operator.
The technology is ready, so the time is now to get started.
- Watch: On-demand webinar with 451 Research, “Building Cloud Interconnect Fabrics to Move Up the Value Chain”
- Read: Pluribus Interconnect Fabric Solution Overview
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About the Author
Jay Gill is Senior Director of Marketing at Pluribus Networks, responsible for product marketing and open networking thought leadership. Prior to Pluribus, he guided product marketing for optical networking at Infinera, and held a variety of positions at Cisco focused on growing the company’s service provider business. Earlier in his career, Jay worked in engineering and product development at several service providers including both incumbents and startups. Jay holds a BSEE and MSEE from Stanford and an MBA from UCLA Anderson.