Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

Addressing the Top Five DCI Challenges

The interconnection of provider data centers and customer data centers has become challenging due to the rise in the use of the cloud. Here are five of the biggest.

Industry Perspectives

September 2, 2015

4 Min Read
Addressing the Top Five DCI Challenges

Brian Lavallée is Director of Product and Technology Solutions at Ciena.

According to recent survey data from IDC, enterprises continue to expand their use of the cloud. The study revealed that the number of enterprises that will connect their corporate networks to two or more cloud service providers will triple within the next two years from 29 to 86 percent. As these services become increasingly prevalent, the interconnection between provider data centers and customers' data centers becomes critical, driving demand for seamless capacity, reliability, and flexibility.

To achieve efficient Data Center Interconnect (DCI), content, network, and hosting providers, along with traditional enterprises, must transform and modernize network operations. Here are five major challenges organizations will need to overcome in this process.


Data centers often require a connection with minimum latency to maintain a proper operation of time-sensitive applications and precise synchronization between the server sending the information and the storage device saving it. When data centers that need to be connected are physically far apart, the latency increases as a function of the distance between the data centers housing content and applications and the end-user’s equipment, such as smartphones.

Although choosing the shortest physical route can minimize fiber induced latency, networking equipment must keep hardware-induced latency to a minimum with proper design practices. Breakthroughs in Digital Signal Processing (DSP), intelligent latency-based traffic routing intelligence, and optical transmission technologies have allowed networking equipment providers to introduce platforms capable of ensuring minimal latency without compromising speed for performance.


Due to the rapid growth of video-centric content, the aggregate size of application data sets entering or leaving the data center can be very large—hundreds of gigabits, or even terabits. This requires the network connecting the data centers to be capable of providing reliable, high-capacity connections that can be scaled to address tremendous growth requirements in data center traffic. For example, advances in coherent optics have paved the way to successfully transmitting data at rates of 100 Gb/s and higher, over almost any distance, dramatically improving DCI performance.


Information stored in data centers, including financial transactions, personal records, and corporate data, is often business-critical and confidential, creating a requirement to ensure data center network connections are trusted, reliable, and secure—often requiring network encryption.

While encryption and stringent rules for access to stored data are widely deployed to protect against intrusions, advances in networking equipment can also deliver in-flight data encryption. This offers increased protection for data, from the moment it leaves one data center to the moment it enters another data center over the interconnecting network. Encrypting at the transport layer of the network guarantees encryption at wirespeed to ensure the process does not reduce the traffic throughput nor modify the content.


Manual network operations are labor intensive, complex, slow, and can be highly error-prone. Minimizing manual operations by automating frequent and recurring tasks is an operational imperative. Turning up a connection between two data centers should be rapid and reliable, and managing this connection should not require ongoing manual operational tasks.

Optical networking platforms are meticulously designed and purpose-built for DCI applications. Simple planning, ordering, and installation advances enable data centers to be interconnected faster. Full programmability allows data center operators to design and build applications for specific operational requirements. Vendors that embrace open networking principles and have expertise in providing tactical and strategic steps to help modernize and monetize networks will help provide maximum business value. The addition of rich management tools allow DCI network operators to proactively and reactively maintain the ongoing health of the network interconnecting data centers for the highest availability.


With expected traffic growth between data centers approaching 30 percent CAGR, network costs must grow at a much slower rate if a data center is to remain financially viable into the future.

For data centers to remain financially viable, costs simply cannot scale linearly alongside bandwidth growth. Instead, the industry is making advances in high-speed networking, including solutions that operate in a small footprint and connect data centers at the lowest possible cost per bit. Solutions that take up less space and reduce power consumption will reduce operating costs.

At the same time, modularity advances enable the ability to scale to multiple terabits of transport capacity without hefty capital or operational investments. Data center operators demand ongoing reductions in electricity, cooling, and real-estate costs. Simpler product designs may also lower management, licensing, and training costs.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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