The enterprise is quickly migrating from a single-cloud strategy to a multi-cloud footing as a means to cope with the increasingly heavy data loads of emerging service-based business models.

It doesn't take long, however, to realize that performance of these distributed architectures is tied directly to network connectivity. Unfortunately, network solutions tend to become more expensive as demands for bandwidth and flexibility mount, putting the enterprise in a difficult position when it comes to meeting the demands of increasingly tech-savvy users at a reasonable price point.

This is why many organizations are looking to reinvent the network wheel, so to speak, by adopting new wide area architectures between cloud instances. The leading solution at the moment is the data center interconnect (DCI), which offers numerous advantages over traditional solutions, providing a level of connectivity that can accommodate both the scale and the highly dynamic nature of modern workflows under an extremely efficient operating model.

One of the key benefits of the DCI is its ability to accommodate rising and falling bandwidth requirements under a streamlined hardware footprint, says tech writer Dan Steiner. Once established as either a virtual private network or under a leased program from a network provider, the DCI allows users to consume bandwidth at varying rates and then adjust their consumption faster than on a traditional architecture. In this way, organizations can more closely match network costs with workload demands. It's the difference between deploying a networking solution that merely provides enough capacity versus one that provides both capacity and functionality.

This is proving increasingly important for organizations encroaching on web-scale data footprints, says IT analyst Sterling Perrin. Companies like Google and Facebook, in fact, led the charge for DCI solutions because traditional off-the-shelf hardware was simply not up to the job. One of the key developments pushed forward in recent years is the open line system, a technique that separates the optical line from the end terminal. This allows network architectures to deploy advanced transponders and other systems without having to change the entire line architecture. At the same time, it provides greater leeway when it comes to mixing best-of-breed solutions from multiple vendors.

Some data center providers, in fact, are looking to link the DCI to internal network fabrics to essentially create what sounds like a geo-distributed, integrated IT ecosystem. Equinix, for example, is laying the foundation for Open Compute Project (OCP) architectures in conjunction with wide area interconnection under the Telecom Infra Project that seeks to drive open solutions into core, access, backhaul and management infrastructure. The program encompasses the OCP OpenRackV2 and server architectures, plus API-driven interconnects to enable programmable fabrics to connect disparate resources at multiple data sites. Meanwhile, the company is also investing in silicon photonics and high-density fiber management systems to significantly boost the carrying capacity of available networks.

DCI functionality should also see dramatic improvement as software-defined networking (SDN) migrates to the wide area, says CIMI Corp. president Tom Nolle. Service providers in particular have a vested interest in leveraging SDN over a diverse user base, while individual enterprises will no doubt find it useful for private fiber, wavelength services and TDM connectivity on their core networks. Ultimately, this should push a wide range of networking services to the carrier edge as providers become more adept at delivering virtual connectivity or even their own data center capabilities to enterprise customers.

One thing remains abundantly clear: today's wide area, point-to-point network architectures cannot support the kinds of advanced service offerings that most enterprises are planning to deploy. Not only are they cost-prohibitive, but they lack the flexibility needed to support the fast-paced, highly dynamic workloads of emerging mobile and IoT environments.

Just as modern automobiles cannot function with wooden wagon wheels, the modern enterprise cannot function with a static, inflexible wide area interconnect.