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The Dynjeeling Unlimited Part 2: Searching For A New Data Center In Chennai

(Dyn Chief Scientist Tom Daly is traveling India looking for a new DNS data center. Read about the first part of his journey.)

Chennai is a strategic and vital part of the Internet in India. Located in the southeast quadrant along the coast in the state of Tamil Nadu, Chennai hosts multiple international submarine cable landing sites.

Some of the well-known cable systems include I2I, SEA-ME-WE3 and SEA-ME-WE4 from the countries of Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

Like the city of Mumbai, Chennai is a strategic point of national infrastructure for Internet traffic entering and exiting the country. The importance of this point is enhanced by the fact that there are little to no terrestrial links in and out of India by way of neighboring countries, such as Nepal and Bangledesh. Chennai’s infrastructure is responsible for up to 50 percent of all international communications traffic to the country.

Know Your Data Center Types

There is a large distinction between different types of hosting facilities worldwide and having an understanding of how various providers delineate one site type from another can help in making a choice of where to host equipment. Each facility type is optimized for a particular type of customer need and aligning your design with what the location can offer will greatly simplify the complexity of your operations.

Here are the general classifications for the types of facilities I’ve seen:

Cable Landing Station

A cable landing station is a location terminating a submarine cable. These locations are typically found near a shoreline, but can be several kilometers away using terrestrial backhauls.

The facilities typically operate at ISO layer 1 and layer 2 only, usually finding only long haul optical transmission systems and add/drop multiplexers.

These facilities are optimized for DC power and require environmentally hardened equipment to be installed due to the typically “wet” environmental conditions associated with being near a coastline.

Rarely will you find an IP router in one of these sites, much less space for server colocation, although this trend is changing with certain APAC cable landing stations.

Carrier Hotel

Raj Vysetty (left) and Tom Daly (right) continue their journey across India.

Carrier hotels are usually very network centric sites. They are similar to a cable landing station in that they tend to host a lot of hardened telecom equipment, but they may also offer space for computer server colocation.

Carrier hotels don’t tend to offer precise power and cooling service level agreements (SLAs) as a data center does, because the network assets hosted in a carrier hotel should be designed in such a way that the network survives failure of the site.

DC powered equipment is predominantly available.

I’d also classify a telecom’s central office (CO) as having the same characteristics as a carrier hotel does.

Data Center

Data centers may or may not be as network centric as a carrier hotel. Instead, they are designed to provide a server-focused environment.

Facilities in this category will deliver UPS backed AC power to customer racks, cabinets and cages. A lot of effort is spent on optimizing overall HVAC and cooling in these facilities due to the massive heat loads generated by computer servers as opposed to environmentally hardened networking/telecom equipment.

Data centers are much larger structures than a cable landing station or a POP as these facilities generally house hundreds of racks or more and can occupy hundreds of thousands of square feet of space.

Data centers tend to be strategically located to optimize for location/environmental stability, power cost/availability or network availability/latency. Data center operators will typically attempt to optimize for one or more of the factors above.

Dyn is truly worldwide!

Did you know Dyn has nearly 20 data centers in
more than 10 countries? View our map.

Internet Exchange (IX)

Depending upon the IX, they can be very virtual services or very physical places  — a hybrid of a cable landing station, a carrier hotel, and a data center. By definition, an IX is a switching fabric, where networks come together to exchange traffic with each other.

In legacy IX models, networks are required to build out to the IX switching site (or “POP”) into the IX. In modern models, many IXes are also hosting sites, a hybrid between the carrier hotel and the data center. IXes will typically offer both AC and DC power, and environments suitable for hosting computer servers.

Point of Presence (POP)

The universal misnomer of hosting sites, a POP generally represents a particular customer’s installation into a cable landing station, a carrier hotel, a data center or an Internet exchange.

In fact, a POP can be classified as any node placed in a third party location, even an office building. POPs tend to be very small, from a few rack units of equipment to a couple racks and generally focused on providing services to other customers in the facility.

What did we find in Chennai?

We found a mix of cable landing stations, carrier hotels and data centers with various telecom providers offering POPs in third-party data centers. India as a whole only has one major player in the Internet exchange space, known as NIXI – a government owned and operated virtual exchange.

Dyn tends to host in brick-and-mortar Internet exchanges around the world where AC power and good environmental conditions for servers are available, in addition to a variety of networks. We do this to stay close to the core hubs of networks where traffic is exchanged.

Seeing as none of these exist in India, we’ll be opting for a carrier-neutral data center where any carrier or network is allowed to “POP” into the hosting site to provide bandwidth services to its customers.

Unlike the IXes of the world, this means we’ll be paying some additional costs in local loops to backhaul our traffic from the data center via a particular Internet access provider’s POP back to their carrier hotel and/or cable landing station.

Next, I’m heading to Bangalore to see more carrier hotels and data centers and in my next post from the trail, we’ll explore the power infrastructure in India as we’ve been learning more about it during the trip.

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Whois: Tom Daly

Tom Daly is a co-founder of Dyn, a pioneer in managed DNS and a leader in cloud-based infrastructure that connects users with digital content and experiences across a global internet.