For consumers, the cloud is out there on the internet and, beyond their connection to a local internet service provider, how they actually connect to cloud services from companies is not their concern. Only it is.
The internet provides a best-effort service which, like the weather, can vary wildly from one minute to the next (indeed, there’s a service called the Internet Weather Map™ that tracks this). While this may be OK for home-users, for most enterprise applications this is unacceptable, often resulting in a poor user experience and unavoidable outages.
As if that’s not bad enough, untrusted third parties, who can see and modify the traffic, are often in the path between the user and the service provider.
The recent Heartbleed vulnerability, which allowed hackers to access data stored on servers, including passwords, credit card numbers and personally identifiable information, ironically via the encryption software designed to keep this data safe, showed it is insufficient to rely on encryption to keep data secure. For the type of data enterprises are typically dealing with internally – trade secrets and customer data – it is necessary to establish a dedicated, private connection to their cloud providers.
Enter Equinix with its global footprint of more than 100 data centers in 32 markets. These buildings are home to over 120,000 connections between networks, content providers, cloud services, finance companies and many other enterprises.
Founded in California in 1998, Equinix helped scale the internet to what it is today and is essentially one of a number of its landlords, known as carrier-neutral, multi-tenant data centers. Indeed, Equinix has announced its intention to convert to a real estate investment trust in 2015.
In many ways, this is like a shopping mall, only instead of visiting stores, customers connect to cloud providers
These large warehouse-like buildings, which Equinix calls Internet Business Exchanges or IBXs, are marketplaces where companies come to do business with one another. They buy power, space and cooling from Equinix, as well as interconnectivity between each other in the form of fiber optic cables and electronic exchanges.
Given this is where 500-plus cloud providers, large and small, come to connect to networks and exchanges, and ultimately to their end-users, it’s also the ideal location for enterprises to establish dedicated, private “direct access” to them.
There are a number of benefits of bypassing the public internet, including improved and more consistent performance – higher bandwidth and lower latency – significantly better security, including high availability, and cost efficiencies, given it is no longer necessary to transit through others’ networks. There are also a number of flexible interconnection offerings, including Cross Connects (dedicated fiber cables), Ethernet and Internet exchanges (carrier grade switches connecting many providers) within the data center, and Metro Connect (dark fibers, waves and private-line services) between data centers in the same metro, for example the five data centers in London.
Last week, Equinix also launched the Equinix Cloud Exchange, another Direct Access option for enterprises to connect to cloud providers. Once a customer has established a physical connection to the exchange, by renting a port on it and connecting a fiber to it, they can connect to any of the cloud providers on it, instantly via a web portal or API (application programming interface).
In many ways, this is like a shopping mall, only instead of visiting stores, such as Hugo Boss or Marks & Spencer, customers connect to cloud providers, including Amazon and Microsoft, who are already available on the exchange in London. Another way to look at it is like an operating system, where you install best-of-breed applications, such as Office and Photoshop, rather than using Notepad and Paint.
Platforms such as the Equinix Cloud Exchange are the future of cloud connectivity.