Interconnection’s meaning in IT is essentially the same as in other areas. It refers to the interlinked relationships between different devices, networks, and even systems. Interconnection facilitates the exchange and processing of data. It, therefore, plays a vital role in modern business (and other areas).
The basic concept of interconnection is that individual components can work independently or in combination according to circumstances. This has two implications. Firstly, each component has to have its own set of rules to govern how it operates. Secondly, there needs to be a set of rules to govern how data is transferred between components.
As a corollary of this, components that interact with multiple other components need a way to interface with each of them. It is therefore preferable if components all follow the same basic rules for transferring data between components.
There are three key building blocks of interconnection in IT. These are LANs, WANs, and the internet.
LANs are Local Area Networks. As the name suggests, LANs operate within very restricted areas. Many LANs are within a single building. Bigger LANs may cover a somewhat larger area, such as a university campus. It is, however, extremely rare for LANs to cover an area of more than about half a mile in radius.
Traditionally, LANs were wired networks, connected by Ethernet technology. Many of them still are. It is, however, increasingly common for them to be wireless networks, connected by WiFi technology.
LANs play a key role in networking. They help to keep as much traffic as possible local to its source. This generally makes it easier to deliver the sort of response speeds modern IT users value. It also helps reduce the load on other networks. This makes it easier for them to deliver a better performance.
With that said, LANs on their own are highly limited. This means that they generally need to be interconnected to at least one WAN and/or the internet.
WANs are Wide Area Networks. At their smallest, WANs can be only slightly bigger than LANs. At their largest, WANs can be literally global. The internet is, technically, a WAN. It is, however, distinct enough from other WANs to be considered a separate entity. The main distinction is that WANs are privately owned. The internet, effectively, is public.
Most WANs are comprised of groups of LANs. This means that WANs are an example of interconnection at work. Some WANs can be single networks. This is, however, relatively unusual.
The fact that WANs cover larger areas than LANs means that, currently, they have to be wired networks. This may change in the future. It is, however, very unlikely to change in the near future.
Some WANs are totally private. That is to say, they may connect to LANs (owned by the same organization) but not to the internet. Most WANs, however, do connect to the internet. In fact, access to the internet can be vital for their operation.
The internet is the world’s biggest WAN. Most other WANs connect to it as do most LANs. Many people connect to it directly. For example, most private users would connect directly to the internet. So would most freelancers and many remote workers.
Interconnection is a requirement for the cloud. It can, however, be implemented on very different scales. For example, some companies may run LANs with an on-premises cloud data center. This LAN may connect to a WAN with a larger data center that can handle heavier-duty processing. It may also connect to the internet to use public cloud services.
In fact, it is now far from unusual for enterprises to push interconnection as far as it can go (for now). Probably the most obvious example of this is the greater adoption of complex interconnection systems such as hybrid multiclouds. They combine at least one private cloud with multiple public clouds. They may include on-premises infrastructure as well.
Edge computing may highlight the importance of interconnection even more than clouds. With edge computing, the processing is pushed as far out from the center as it can reasonably be. In some implementations of edge computing, the end devices themselves do all the processing.
It is, however, becoming more common for edge devices to be linked to a network in some way. This can simply mean that the processing is handled by regular network hardware such as routers. Alternatively, it can mean that the edge devices connect to a dedicated cloud, usually known as an edge cloud.
This edge cloud may then interface with other components in a LAN and, quite possibly, a WAN and the internet as well. It will intelligently decide what processing is best handled at what level to deliver maximum results for minimum resources.
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