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Connections For Data Center Networking
The need for data replication between two or more enterprise data centers drives new bandwidth options.

Data management and storage requirements for enterprise level organizations continue to increase. In addition, a majority of enterprise IT departments now replicate data between data centers. This has created a need for new and more cost effective bandwidth services, especially at 10 Gbps and above. Level 3 is addressing these needs with an enhancement of its existing data center networking solutions.

Data Center Differences
What’s different about data center connectivity compared to other business requirements? Data centers are far more concentrated than other computing resources. This is especially true for storage, a prime driver for offsite data centers in the first place. What this does is increase the need for high bandwidth connections between the concentration of storage and the concentration of users. It also influences the connectivity required.

More Bandwidth Required
What you need for last mile connections to an MPLS network or private lines to link business locations can usually be handled by T-Carrier, SONET/SDH or Carrier Ethernet line services. Data centers need higher bandwidth connections, but may also need special SAN protocols including Fibre Channel, Infiniband, ESCON and FICON.

What is SAN?
SAN stands for Storage Area Networks. These are large collections of disk drives that connect directly to the application servers. SAN networks have traditionally been very localized, with the disk arrays physically near the servers. But what do you do when you need to duplicate data between data centers?

Need for Geographial Dispersion
Many companies operate two or more data centers, sometimes a half-dozen or more. Some of this is due to mergers and acquisitions of formerly independent organizations with their own IT infrastructures. Much is driven by a need for disaster protection and recovery. When your business is critically dependent on its electronic data, normal backup processes aren’t adequate. You can have multiple copies of your files locked up locally and still be put out of business by a fire, tornado, flood, earthquake, hurricane or other disaster that destroys whole buildings and everything in them.

Data Replication Need
This means that you want to have copies of your critical data dispersed geographically. Establishing independent data centers in two or more cities far apart means than a disaster that takes out one center probably won’t knock out everything. There’s also an advantage to content providers in having the servers and data content located close to the customers. Latency is reduced and performance is increased due to less network congestion. A challenge is how to make sure the data is replicated exactly at all locations.

SAN Between Data Centers
This is where long distance SAN networking comes into play. You need high levels of bandwidth but also support for SAN protocols to keep everything synchronized. FCoE or Fiber Channel over Ethernet is a popular protocol for transmitting Fibre Channel frames over 10 Gbps Ethernet connections. WDM or Wavelength Division Multiplexing avoids having to layer protocols to connect facilities. Each wavelength in a fiber optic link can be assigned its own protocol, regardless of what is running on other wavelengths in the same beam.

More Data Center Networking Options
Level 3 Communications has expanded its data center networking portfolio to include SAN fiber channel protocol, dark fiber and managed fiber solutions. This is in addition to dedicated bandwidth services from 1 Gbps to more than 40 Gbps, including 10 Gbps EVPL or Ethernet Virtual Private Line service. They offer low latency route guarantees and an international service footprint, including a presence at key public exchange facilities.

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