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What Can Blended Bandwidth Do For You?

Nick Durkin
Published on April 2, 2014

Find out how utilizing multiple Internet service vendors can increase your site's reliability and make your life easier.

It’s a fact of life that electricity is essential to the modern workplace. If you had the choice of buying electricity from multiple vendors at the same time for a reasonable price, would you? Your answer is most likely “yes” because you want the reliability that comes with multiple vendors delivering this essential service to your business. In a data center, Internet bandwidth is as important as electricity; you need both to function. But while buying electricity from multiple vendors might not be feasible, blended bandwidth allows you to maintain the reliability of your services by utilizing multiple sources for Internet service and ensuring uptime.

The Traditional Model

When a company rents space (or “co-locates”) in a data center for their IT equipment, they have traditionally had to lease their own circuits from one or two Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Level 3 or XO. These Internet circuits then have to be cross connected from the building entry point to the cage or rack where the servers are located. If service is being delivered by two or more providers, IT staff would have to deal with several companies for things like contracts, installation, and service issues. The company renting the space in the data center would then be responsible for purchasing, setting up, monitoring, and maintaining all routers that allow their LAN to communicate with the Internet. They are also responsible for configuring the routers correctly to fail over between the multiple circuit providers if one goes down.

The Blended Bandwidth Model

If you are renting space in a data center, it means that you have decided not to build your own internal data center. You have most likely come to this decision because it is expensive, and there are companies whose core business is building and maintaining data centers. You pay a monthly fee, and in return, the data center provides you with a secure co-location area that has reliable power, environmental controls, and security. By subscribing to the blended bandwidth model, you are paying the data center, not an ISP, to deliver Internet bandwidth to your infrastructure.

The data center takes care of building relationships with multiple ISPs to install their circuits in the data center. They sign the contracts with the ISPs and reach out to them for support issues. The data center then builds their own routing infrastructure that fails over to another ISP if one goes offline. Finally, you are able to connect your network to the data center’s network by sending your traffic to their router. The data center simply provides you with a single IP address to use as a default gateway, no matter how many ISPs they are using in their pool.

Advantages of the Blended Bandwidth Model

In terms of network costs, there are several advantages to blended bandwidth. You do not have to purchase routing equipment and the associated support contracts. You do not have to sign long term contracts with ISPs that may become unreliable in the future. The data center is often able to sign discounted contracts with ISPs because they are buying a large amount of bandwidth. By using several bandwidth providers, the data center is able to provide you with a redundant circuit with high uptime. For business critical applications, downtime can cost real money, so this redundancy is essential.

There are also administrative advantages to having someone else manage this part of your network. The data center is free to change the ISPs that they use in their blended bandwidth pool if one of them is underperforming. They are able to do this without affecting the public IP addresses that you use. If there is a problem with a router, they are responsible for replacing it.

Using blended bandwidth frees up your IT department to focus on the networking challenges that affect your core business. Instead of worrying about the details of router configuration for ISP failover, you are able to work on things like firewall rules, LAN architecture, SANs, and virtual networking. This will cause your network to have more uptime and your company’s IT department to be more successful. Do you have any questions about how Diagram manages our servers in the data center space we rent? Please let us know in the comments below.