Talking transit – is your route out to the internet up to scratch?

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In recent weeks we've looked at factors impacting service uptime at your chosen data centre provider — the resilience of power and cooling for instance, and the security of the facility and capability of on-site personnel.

What about network and connectivity? The reality is that no matter how state-of-the-art your hardware and no matter how many backup power supplies are in place: if your route out to the internet is vulnerable, your ability to operate will be at risk.

Consider first, the nature of the physical network links into and out of a data centre. Ideally, they will be diverse, multi-path – that is, more than one way into and out of the building. At its most basic level, this helps to protect against physical damage to fibre cables: if a utility company for example, causes a cable-cut fault for a specific provider, traffic can be failed over to an alternative route and service is able to continue. If uptime is critical to your organisation, look for a facility with providers that deliver their network over diverse physical routes.

Building on this theme, does the facility offer a choice of network providers?

A component of ensuring true service resilience at your chosen data centre will be the ability to get out to the wider internet via another provider, should a fault with one of your routes occur. So, does the data centre offer a choice of network providers (i.e. a carrier-neutral facility) to allow you to engineer greater reliability into your operation? Some facilities are carrier-specific, which can restrict your ability to eliminate the kind of single-point-of-failure that can compromise your uptime record.

Beyond uptime

Resilience isn’t the only aspect to consider when evaluating connectivity at your data centre.

Choice of network provider may be something that is important to your organisation. A carrier-neutral data centre (as opposed to a carrier-specific facility) and its range of networks, opens up the freedom for you to take transit and other network products from a provider that suits your specific needs, while you may also benefit from the competition that choice within a market introduces: price, service and performance.

Another tick in the box for a facility that has multiple network providers comes with the appreciation of the fact that each of those “Points of Presence” (or PoPs) has involved due diligence and investment on the part of the provider. Building a PoP is a significant cost, so if they’ve put the work in, it’s generally a good sign that the data centre is an important, worthwhile place to be.

Another couple of the factors that will likely influence your choice of data centre will be the reach and performance of network options there. For example, if low latency is important for the services that you deliver, finding a facility that can offer access to regional and national peering providers (via an Internet Exchange Point) will be advantageous. The ability to partner with an IXP will minimise network hops and route your traffic in the most efficient way, leading to optimum performance for your users.

Other connectivity features that may be important to your organisation include:

  • The availability of high throughput, low latency direct links to cloud providers (e.g. AWS and Microsoft Azure) which can offer enhanced performance in comparison with public internet connections.
  • The ability to connect directly to other regional data centres (e.g. Metro Ring in Manchester) and primary national connectivity centres (London Long-Reach Ring).
  • The opportunity to link your colocation and cloud deployments if you’re interested in adopting a hybrid IT strategy.

A resource to help you become a data centre expert

Connectivity is one of the most important factors in the performance, reliability and overall quality of a third-party data centre. The network options at your chosen provider will also have a significant bearing on your network strategy from cost, reach and expansion perspectives, so it is well worth researching along with the other key criteria of your chosen provider. If you’re in the process of evaluating providers, download our free “Buyer’s Guide: Data centre services” which will help you to ask the right questions and make an informed decision about your next data centre tenancy.