Data Center

Connectivity Matters When Low Latency is Your Data Center Goal

Ron Tellas

Although many things were upended or paused in the midst of COVID-19, one thing remained true: Data centers held fast and established their position as mission critical not only to business, but also to everyday life.


Our data centers allowed companies of all sizes to quickly scale remote work. They supported K-12 schools and universities as they shifted overnight to online learning. They gave restaurants new ways to connect with customers and capture orders. They even supported remote connections between doctors and patients and gave people endless entertainment options as they sheltered in place.


Throughout the pandemic, while construction in other commercial real estate segments suffered, data centers made progress. In fact, Gartner predicts that global data center infrastructure spending will increase by 6% this year.


As data centers have proven themselves to be indispensable, they need to be able to quickly add capacity to support remote IT, e-commerce, increased video streaming and gaming, and applications like telemedicine, distance learning and online collaboration. To make this happen, low-latency connectivity is crucial. Low latency—or fast response time—is key to a good user experience.


Because data moving through a data center needs to be transmitted and processed faster, data centers have been trending toward full-mesh, leaf-spine fabric architecture. It reduces latency and supports data-intensive and time-sensitive applications in virtualized server environments where resources for a specific application are often distributed across multiple servers.


Connectivity matters when low latency is your goal. In a data center, fiber cabling enables the use of distribution areas with traditional cross-connects for flexible, standards-based connections between equipment—including leaf switches to servers, leaf switches to spine switches and servers to storage devices.


Getting their names from the cables and cords (cross-connects) that create a direct link between two termination units, cross-connects are the star of the show in this type of data center architecture. They can increase performance, decrease latency, improve traffic management, make expansion easier in virtualized server environments and enable server clustering for easier sharing of compute and storage resources.


By using fiber panels that mirror the ports on connecting equipment, cross-connects allow data centers to facilitate “all-to-all” connections: Any equipment port can be connected to any other equipment port by simply repositioning fiber patch cords at the front of the fiber panels.


New services are brought online quickly at the cross-connect. Spine switches in the main distribution area can be connected to the cross-connect through permanent fixed links, and new leaf switches can be connected to unused spine switch ports at the cross-connect.


This is especially ideal in a colocation environment where customer equipment needs to connect quickly to service provider equipment outside the meet-me room without having to access equipment, providing an additional level of security and assurance without interrupting operations. A cross-connect allows customers to take advantage of adjacent services, partners, carriers and ecosystems.


The benefits of cross-connects also hold true within equipment distribution areas located in enterprise customer colocation spaces or on-premises data centers. When new servers need to be added to a row, they can easily connect to the End of Row (EoR) leaf switch at the cross-connect. The distances supported by fiber also mean these cross-connects can be located virtually anywhere within the data center.


Cross-connects have the ability to help data centers cost-effectively expand as we strive to achieve low-latency connectivity to support the demands that lie ahead: remote IT, e-commerce, increased video streaming and gaming, and applications like telemedicine, distance learning and online collaboration.


Want to learn more about structured cabling and cross-connects in data centers? We worked with the  Communications Cable & Connectivity Association (CCCA) to pen a recent article for Cabling Installation &Maintenance.