Our exclusive look inside the new data centers of Fidelity, GM, Capital One, Equinix, ServiceNow, and Bank Of America shows the future of computing.
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Equinix focuses on communications
Data center operator Equinix bases its decision on where to build a new facility on four main considerations: communications capabilities and location, location, location.
Equinix is one of the premier builders of communications hubs and co-location facilities, with a specialty of locating just outside some of the world's largest trading and retail markets -- New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago, among others. One of its newest is an eight-story building in Seattle.
Equinix caters to data center customers who put a premium on speed, reliability, and multiple providers of their communications -- thus Equinix's special attention to telecom links and physical location. For example, a software-as-a-service vendor may use Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure for cloud computing and storage but connect that computing power via a high-speed private-line access to a nearby Equinix communications hub. In that hub, Equinix can let the SaaS vendor deliver data to end customers using a carrier that isn't available inside an Amazon or Microsoft cloud facility. AWS's Direct Connect service, Microsoft's ExpressRoute, and Verizon's Secure Cloud Interconnect services all use Equinix for this kind of routing to other telecom carriers or services.
Carrier-neutral communications hubs help businesses looking to extend into territories that their primary telecom suppliers don't serve well. For a global presence, a business will almost certainly need a number of carriers to make sure its website and services have fast response times in different parts of the world.
Equinix concentrates many communications carriers in a "network neutral" facility -- any carrier can be connected to any other carrier to let a company optimize speed, cost, or reliability. Today Equinix builds those connections manually, running a fiber jumper from carrier A to carrier B, says Equinix CIO Brian Lillie. In the near future, it will create new connections via a software function, implemented over a virtual network taking advantage of established physical connections, Lillie says. That will let customers switch carriers more readily than they do today.
The data center as communications hub has become more important as businesses become more digital, based on e-commerce and online customer interaction. It's hard for companies building their own data centers to replicate a telecom hub, since generally a company only gets one or two carriers as primary providers. By comparison, Equinix's Ashburn, Va., center -- near Amazon's US East data center complex -- houses 130 carriers; a typical Equinix center has 50 to 60.
Equinix operates 100 data centers in 33 urban centers around the globe, which means building an Equinix data center with the latest switching equipment and 10-Gbps, 40-Gbps, and soon, 100-Gbps fiber optic lines. A total of 975 carriers can be found in one or more of its data centers. Equinix operates seven such centers in the New York City area, including two in Manhattan, catering to financial services companies for functions such as high-speed trading.
Other notable features include:
Testing for trouble: Lillie says it's difficult to get two electricity sources in some dense urban locations, so Equinix has to build even more uninterruptible power supply and backup generator infrastructure into those than most data centers. It also does some interesting testing. When those huge diesel backup generators kick in during a power loss, they can produce vibrations that cause other equipment to vibrate and potentially overheat. So when testing the generators, technicians scan the data center with infrared cameras, looking for an equipment heat signature that might indicate trouble. "Just because you build for reliability doesn't mean that you have it operationally," Lillie warns.
Cloud Exchange: A new Equinix service lets companies move enterprise data and workloads with less exposure on the public Internet. A customer may then need to make only limited use of the Internet to get to an Equinix center, or it may establish a private connection, making the route all private.