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Don’t put all your telecom eggs in one basket

Nov 22, 20053 mins
Data Center

* Why multi-homing is key

Data center managers don’t generally take the network for granted – some of the most stringent availability and recovery requirements that enterprises place on carriers have to do with data center connectivity.

But that doesn’t mean data center connectivity is a solved problem. Increasingly, enterprises are relying on multi-carrier Internet services (rather than services provided by a single carrier) for remote-office and remote-worker connectivity back to the data center. That brings a whole new dimension to the challenge of data center connectivity: managers must consider not only reliability and availability of the data center to the Internet “cloud,” but also the reliability and availability of the remote-office connections.

Multi-homing (connecting to multiple ISPs) is the solution of choice to ensure high-availability connectivity of data centers. Many e-commerce and Internet-based sites connect directly to as many as seven or eight backbone Internet providers. The catch is that doing so effectively requires a relatively high degree of expertise in Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and other advanced routing technologies. BGP engineers exist, but they’re expensive – and if a company isn’t also operating a complex routed network, it may be overkill to staff a couple of BGP gurus just to keep the data center up and running.

An alternative to running your own multi-homing is to rely on multi-homed service providers, such as Internap, which offer connectivity to multiple providers (along with appropriate BGP and route optimization).

Whether you opt for your own multi-homing or that of a third party, connectivity to multiple ISPs is a must. Relying on a single ISP means that if that ISP goes down, your data center is disconnected.

As for the remote offices, the traditional route is to go with the big carriers – which can work if all your remote offices are in SBC’s, Verizon’s, Qwest’s, or BellSouth’s territories. An alternative is to work with managed services offerings by providers such as Masergy and Megapath, which offer managed remote connectivity. These services offer broadband remote-office and remote-worker connectivity over a variety of media, with a centralized point of management and control.

To pull this all together, data center managers should do the following:

* Develop and implement a multi-homing strategy for connecting your data center to the “cloud.” Ensure your providers are offering you an appropriate service-level agreement (SLA).

* Assess the number and criticality of remote offices and workers that will be relying on the Internet to reach the data center.

* Craft an SLA for remote offices and workers, and issue an RFP to a range of providers to see which services can most effectively meet the SLA.

* Consider alternative carriers as well as the traditional players.