Equinix takes virtualisation to the network edge

Some weeks back teknowlogy Group caught up with Direnc Dogruoz, Equinix’s principle product manager for interconnection. The topic of discussion was the growing use of virtualisation in the network, and Equinix’s ability to make virtualised networking quick and easy in combination with ECX Fabric.

As a quick recap, ECX Fabric (or Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric to give it its full title) is the global data center operator’s platform play in the rapidly expanding SDN market. The platform enables customers to quickly and easily interconnect their various Equinix-housed infrastructures, irrespective of geography. Equally significant given the growing strategic importance of public cloud services to many organizations, the service also provides quick and easy interconnect to a large number of public cloud services.

To put this into context, this means that when a multinational Equinix customer expands to a new country, the new location can potentially have access to all corporate systems and cloud services simply by connecting to a local Equinix DC. The SaaS interface of ECX Fabric allows connections to customers’ internal systems (e.g. Finance, Manufacturing etc) to be configured and commissioned in minutes, along with access to preferred cloud services like Workday and Salesforce – even if those cloud services are not present in the new country. While it would be possible to deliver connectivity simply using public Internet, for many organizations the benefits of low latency, greater reliability and greater security will be compelling.

At the same time those connections can be reconfigured as needed. So when traffic volumes are very variable, the capacity of the network connections can be scaled to the demand. Furthermore, since the network is software defined, more sophisticated customers can choose to automate their network scaling using the platforms’ APIs, rather than use the manual SaaS interface.  Equinix’s global fabric can also play a valuable role in overcoming geographic limitations, providing reliable connections into cloud instances in other regions or continents. This same flexibility to scale capacity up and down as needed is also possible for cloud interconnect – the increasingly important customer requirement to interconnect their different IaaS, PaaS and SaaS subscriptions, for example when passing traffic between SalesForce and Workday.

The ECX Fabric has been in the market for some time, is now being enhanced by the addition of virtualised network capabilities, which the company is branding “Network Edge”. This provides the ability to select and deploy software instances of popular network devices (Cisco, Juniper, Palo Alto etc.) in selected Equinix locations. This will particularly appeal to organisations that buy Equinix services in remote locations, since “Network Edge” will enable customers to configure and deploy virtual instances of familiar switches, VPN devices, firewalls etc through a SaaS interface.  This eliminates the days-to-weeks lead-times of hardware deployments, and also releases the customer from the burden of managing remote hardware issues.

The service is available today in US East- and West-coast locations, and London, Amsterdam and Singapore, and it is planned to be progressively rolled out across Equinix, with further infrastructure investment in APAC, Europe, US and LATAM “coming soon”.  Network Edge takes Equinix a long way from its origins as a bullet-proof colo provider, offering services that would have value to organizations with zero colocation footprint. Network Edge is also yet another demonstration of the company’s focus on developing as a platform business, while continuing to deliver against its mission to interconnect the world.