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John Sarkis on Data Center Connectivity

October 14, 2014

I recently sat down with John Sarkis, general manager of colocation and connectivity, to talk about the Digital Realty connectivity offering and Open-IX.

You joined Digital Realty in January 2013 to lead the effort to build the company’s connectivity platform. Why is connectivity important?

In addition to offering our clients the space, power, and data center infrastructure that they need, we want to make it easy for our clients to access connectivity services.

Connectivity is an essential part of the data center service offering because data centers don’t just store data. That data needs to be stored, yes, but often the data also needs to be exchanged. Connectivity is what facilitates the exchange of data and the peering of Internet traffic.

Every time someone sends an email or downloads a Netflix movie, that is a digital transaction that involves connectivity within a data center.

Connectivity is central to the way we live and conduct business.

What is unique about the Digital Realty connectivity offering?

There are 3 things that I’d like to highlight about the Digital Realty connectivity offering.

The first thing that is unique about the Digital Realty connectivity offering is its scale. Digital Realty has one of the largest global footprints of data centers in the industry.

We have 130 properties in 33 markets across 9 countries on 4 continents.

This global scale is relevant because once a client has a presence in one of our data centers, it makes it that much easier to exchange data, or peer with, other facilities, or other clients, in our ecosystem. Some of our sites have more than 100 clients. That same-site accessibility makes it easy for them to connect with one another.

The second thing that is unique about Digital Realty is that our data centers are carrier-dense. Digital Realty has more than 1,000 network and service providers in our ecosystem. That means that our clients have multiple connectivity options available to them.

Lastly, Digital Realty offers our clients access to Open-IX, which is a more neutral and accessible Internet exchange environment than has historically been available.

Can you tell me more about Open-IX? What is that?

In order to understand Open-IX and its goals, it’s helpful to understand a bit about the differences between Internet exchanges in the U.S. and Europe.

In the United States, unlike Europe, commercial providers often host Internet exchange platforms in a single facility or campus operated by those providers. As a result, prices for interconnection are much higher than in Europe because the providers can control these prices. Moreover, hosting everything in one building lowers the resiliency of an interconnection platform. If something happens to the building, it could have a significant impact on the Internet availability in that region.

The European model is much more open, as it is not dominated by commercial providers.

Open-IX is an initiative that was started by a group of Internet-related parties, such as Netflix, Google, Comcast and Akamai. The objective of Open-IX is to reduce interconnection complexity and the associated costs in North America.

(Here is a link to a video from last year of John discussing the rollout of Open-IX.)

What other connectivity options are there? Are there other peering exchanges?

An Internet exchange point is also called a point of presence, or PoP. It’s a physical location that houses networking gear. PoPs are often located at colocation facilities.

In the past year, there have been significant developments which allow Digital Realty to offer its clients more neutral and distributed connectivity options that reduce complexity and the associated costs.

In November 2013, the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), the world’s leading Internet exchange operator, reached agreements with several colocation providers, including Digital Realty, to build and operate a distributed Internet exchange.

This was a significant development in the world of peering exchanges, which had previously been dominated by a very small group of U.S. companies.

AMS-IX, based in Amsterdam with almost 700 connected parties and a peak Internet traffic rate of close to 3 Tb/s, is the world’s largest Internet connectivity hub.

Following the launch of AMS-IX’s PoP in Digital Realty’s 111 8###sup/sup### Avenue facility in New York at the end of 2013, AMS-IX and Digital Realty expanded their partnership in September 2014 with a PoP in Digital Realty’s 365 Main Street facility in San Francisco. This partnership enables Digital Realty to offer additional peering opportunities to its clients to improve their connectivity, while providing AMS-IX and its clients with access to colocation capacity.

AMS-IX provides a physical platform where Internet-related parties can meet to directly exchange Internet traffic with one another. This enables them to offer stable, fast and cost-effective Internet services to their end users and business clients.

by Rebecca Bergman, director of corporate communications (@Rebecca_DLR)

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