Data storage and processing power are more important than ever in today’s heavily digitized, post-COVID world, and private cloud providers are seeing more demand than ever as a result. Data center vendor competition is heating up, creating an unprecedented level of choice for colocation buyers.
Although there are tons of tools out there to help you find data centers in a geographic area, and configuring space and power needs isn’t difficult, there isn’t a ton written on how to think about procuring data center connectivity. Almost every colocation buyer purchases at least one IP transit or wide area network (WAN) connection with their data center space, and oftentimes the performance of their entire network can hinge on the quality of connection purchased. In this guide, we’ll help you understand the major factors to consider when buying any type of connectivity at a data center.
Provider Diversity and Availability
Many data centers have multiple providers that are on-net or “lit,” which means their network is already extended into the building and translates into faster, more predictable implementations. In addition to lit carriers, many data providers themselves have set up their own highly available and redundant internet connections by using an exterior gateway protocol like Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) that allows ingress and egress on a single circuit from multiple carriers. Some providers even throw a free port in as a sweetener. This can be a great way for smaller organizations that may not have demanding needs to get access to highly available IP circuits.
Data center vendors will often list lit carriers on their facility website or can easily list them off on a phone call. If you have specific provider needs (i.e., you operate an MPLS network with AT&T), do your homework before picking a data center to ensure key providers are available. Also, keep in mind that more on-net providers often means better pricing. Be sure to keep provider diversity in mind as well when selecting potential colocation sites.
If you’re an experienced buyer, you’re likely aware that data centers are the best places to buy connectivity in the world, with per megabit pricing that’s unmatched even in the best-lit buildings. However, it’s important to know the right benchmarks for good circuit pricing so you’re not taken advantage of in a price negotiation. Further, keep in mind that headline circuit pricing may not be comparable off the bat. Larger data centers may have multiple meet-me rooms (MMRs) and carriers may have different prices to deliver to different MMRs. Make sure you know where you’re ordering your circuit to in the facility, as this can impact both price and service delivery timing.
Data center cross-connects are almost always needed to bridge the MMR to the customer’s equipment. These can be annoyingly expensive add-ons at times, as I’ve seen cross-connects run from $100 to $300 per month on top of regular space, power, and connectivity. When purchasing space and power, be sure to project your cross-connect needs and negotiate any upfront costs, as well as aim to lock in a future rate for incremental future cross-connects. Different vendors will price these differently, so be sure to inquire about them.
Are you running mission critical applications out of a data center that may require real-time data translation? If so, you may have stringent latency requirements that impact both where you can place your data center (distance impacts latency) and how you architect your network. Connectivity alternatives, such as wave circuits or dark fiber, may be a must. If so, gauge potential latency based on data center distance to your other sites and ensure capable vendors are lit in any colocation facility you consider.
If you’re running disaster recovery replication out of a data center, be sure to verify both latency and WAN connectivity bandwidth is up to snuff for initial replication, continuous testing, and a potential disaster scenario.