What Is a Cross Connect in a Data Center and Why It Matters?

Connectivity is a crucial factor for anyone that is part of the online world. As such, it is a vital part of the operations of each data center company. There are many network connectivity types out there. The one we will be talking about today is the cross connect.

As one of the connectivity types, you need to know what is a cross connect. This will help you learn if and how you can benefit from it.

Also, the more you know about them and their impact on network performance, the easier it will be for you to pick the right connectivity option for your business.

What Is a Cross Connect and What Does It Do?

Cross connects are a network connectivity type that links two separate hardware assests in a data center. The two hardware assets or servers are linked via physical cross connect cables. These cables establish a private network connection between the two.

Also, two servers that are linked using this network connectivity type do not need to use the Internet to be connected.

They can be maintained either by one or across many data centers. Firms use them for many things. One of them is to connect to global networks. This allows them to conduct their business more quickly.

Also, colocation* customers can ask their provider for cross connects. This way, they will set up more reliable, high-performance links with each other in the same data center.

To set up this type of connection between two colocation customers, the provider uses a patch cable. This patch cable links the patch panels of the two servers in the Meet-Me Room or MMR.

The Difference Between a Cross Connect and an Interconnect

Cross connects are often confused with interconnects. They are another connectivity option. To tell them apart more easily, let’s see what the main difference between the two is.


An interconnect is a connectivity type that uses copper trunk cabling. This cabling is used to link active equipment with other data center hardware assets. An interconnect links the patch panel in a server cabinet to the distribution panel of the asset.

The distribution panel is usually located in the switch cabinet. It’s linked to the switch.

Cross Connects

A cross connection data center usually uses two types of connects. They are called the three-connector and the four-connector. Both types need more parts compared to an interconnect. Also, they include more layers

The three-connector model includes the distribution panel used for interconnects. Also, it adds the equipment patch panel in the switch cabinet. This panel is linked to the switch. It copies the switch ports. Then, the patch panels of the active equipment and the hardware asset are linked via cross connect cables.

The four-connector model is even more tricky. It includes two additional patch panels. These patches are located in a separate enclosure. This enclosure is called the cross-connect cabinet. The cabinet sits between the switch cabinet and the server cabinet. In this cabinet, one patch panel copies the ports of the panel in the server cabinet. The other connects to the equipment panel in the switch cabinet. two permanent copper trunk cables set up the links between the cabinets.

How Does a Cross Connect Enable Data Center Interconnection?

The provider you pick needs to offer multiple connectivity options. This will help you boost your operations. It can also give you the upper hand over your competitors.

This type of service is offered by carrier-neutral data centers. They allow firms to directly partner with the companies that provide the services they need without costs going up.

Carrier-neutral data centers use data center interconnection tech or DCI to connect with many service providers. With DCI, the carrier-neutral data center connects to the data centers of the service providers. This allows them to share resources and info.

Colocation providers that have more data centers also use DCI to connect them. This way, the provider offers interconnection and cross connects with all its servers and other service providers. In turn, this allows you to have a reliable, scalable, and secure IT system.

Most data centers use these three types of connections to connect to each other:

This image shows how a device without a VPN vs. how it works with a VPN

The Importance of Cross Connects

A network cross connect offers better performance and connectivity than regular Internet connections. They also offer:

  • A stable network – firms that use a cross connection data center can expect minimal latency issues and bottlenecks. 
  • Less costly solutions – they are usually cheaper than traditional telecom network providers. This makes them the perfect choice for projects that need a lot of bandwidth.
  • Assistance – these connects can help network admins control and use many network assets more efficiently.

The Different Types of Cross Connects

There are many cross connects available today. Each one offers different sizes, bandwidth, connection quality, and distance capabilities. Some of them are:

  • Single-Mode Fiber or SMF – this type uses a fiber optic cable that carries data via a single light ray.
  • Multi-Mode Fiber or MMF – a fiber optic cable that uses LEDs to transport data via multiple light rays.
  • CAT5 Ethernet – is an Ethernet cable that provides 100/10 Mbps bandwidth.
  • CAT6 Ethernet – is the modern version of the CAT5 cable and offers 10 Gbps bandwidth for lengths up to 164 feet.
  • COAX – is a cheap and durable cable that uses an insulated copper wire to transmit electrical signals.
  • Copper – is a heavy and cheap copper cable that offers low bandwidth.

Plain Old Telephone Service or POTS – is a cable that transfers analog signals via copper loops. It has very limited bandwidth and features. However, it is usually quite stable

This image shows the difference between the composure of a multi-mode and a single-mode fiber optic cable

Benefits of Using a Cross Connect

Having a cross connect data center can benefit you in many ways. Cross connects are reliable and secure. Also, they can handle big projects that need a lot of bandwidth, and work at fast spee. There are other crucial benefits of using this connectivity type.

Better Security

These connections can help minimize data loss. Also, they have a better disaster recovery system in case of emergencies. This is because all data is transferred via a private network. The private network is much safer than any public network.

Minimal Latency

Internet-based connections are more prone to latency issues. This makes big data transfers over the Internet very slow.

Cross connects remove this issue. They offer low-latency private links between two endpoints. They also help users in the same network avoid public network bandwidth congestion.


These connects allow you to set up direct links to many carriers and internet service providers at the same place where you keep your servers. This way, you can improve the quality of your services.


Cross connects simplify your network infrastructure by removing many points of failure that are present in public networks. This makes them a much better choice for firms that want to cut down the downtime as much as possible.

Lower Cost

These connects are usually cheaper than regular telecom network services. This is because they offer more bandwidth for a lower price. The data center provider manages them. Also, you will not need to buy any hardware because it is included in the price.

How to Test Cross Connects

The best way to test cross connects in a data center is to use them as a basis for your testing. Also, you should include the patch cables at the cross connect.

You should test starting at the interconnect panel at the near-end active equipment. Then, you should go all the way down to the interconnect panel at the far-end active equipment. This is a more efficient test than permanent link testing. Also, it will give you more accurate results.

Permanent link testing is used to ensure that the fixed part of the channel is performing well. Also, it is used to remove the patch cables that are often replaced. However, even if you test each panel separately and combine the results, you will likely not get an accurate sum of the total link loss.

Something you should always do that will ensure the stability of your network is to use quality patch cables. Also, you should clean and inspect your connectors regularly.

This image depicts a simplified version of what permanent link testing looks like


Data center networking involves many steps. For instance, you need to know what is a colocation and pick the right provider. Also, you need to learn about the many connectivity types and choose the right one for you.

One such connectivity type is a cross connect. It can help you improve your connectivity to others because it offers lower latency. Also, it has better security and is more convenient and reliable. It can help you reduce your costs. This is because it is less expensive than regular telecom networks.

All in all, cross connects can help you improve your network. Also, they offer you high-performance connections that are secure and stable.

Here at Colo Solutions, we assist you with all your IT related needs. Contact us today.


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