Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the proverbial leader in the clubhouse with regards to public cloud computing. Many businesses, from small startups to the largest corporations and agencies, have jumped on the AWS bandwagon to take advantage of the flexibility, scalability, and cost savings AWS offers.
If you’re one of the many businesses already using AWS today, you’ll want to make sure you’re effectively optimizing within AWS. This isn’t as easy as it may sound, though, which is why a lot of IT leaders choose to on-ramp into AWS using either top-level cloud consulting services and/or managed IT service providers.
AWS Direct Connect: Let’s Break it Down
AWS Direct Connect (DX) is a private ethernet connection between a business office, data center, or colocation facility and an AWS node hosted in a separate facility. AWS DX offers several advantages over your standard internet connection, one of the most attractive being the increased speed and consistency that a direct connection provides.
Speed, Reliability and Savings
Speed and reliability are very important to businesses, especially those relying on low-latency performance. Unlike data transfer over the public internet, where the route from A to B can change each time, a direct connection effectively ensures consistent performance with less chance of delays and dropped connections.
Another significant benefit for businesses running traffic-heavy applications is, of course, the reduced data transfer costs associated with AWS — because who doesn’t love saving money!
A direct connection is also more secure than a standard internet connection, since there are far fewer points of vulnerability, and the data routes can also be controlled. Although the in-house data manager will still be responsible for securing everything on the business’ side of the DX node, data sent from and stored within the actual AWS infrastructure will be secured with the finest industry-grade encryption technology. Furthermore, keeping data within a trusted region can make it much easier to meet data protection standards. All this goodness can be guaranteed with a direct connection.
AWS DX also makes it much easier to scale applications and services. Scalability and within-region redundancy is achieved by provisioning additional connections in response to increased demand. AWS can accommodate speeds from 50Mbps and up, on either 1GB or 10GB ports. However, if you’ve got a need for some real big boy bandwidth, there is at least one direct connect solution provider which offers as much as 100G into AWS. Compare these amazing capabilities with using hardware devices for creating VPNs over the internet, which often have limited bandwidth potential (a maximum of 4Gbps is common), meaning a lot of time, effort and capital is wasted on ordering new hardware devices or upgrading current ones.
With AWS DX, logical separation technology (specifically 802.1q tagging), enables several public connections and VPNs to be shared on one connection. This makes it easy to share publicly accessible assets, like objects stored in Amazon S3, and private development space such as an E2C instance on a VLAN, on one connection.
Once configured, the AWS environment can be easily managed via the AWS Management Console. All services (e.g. Glacier, Redshift, S3, EC2 instances) can be accessed through a single pane of glass and reconfigured if necessary. Each VLAN is accessible via its own interface, and downloadable router templates make it easy to quickly provision new connections when needed.
AWS DX also makes it easier to set up custom hybrid networks, which are low on complexity and high on performance. Several AWS partners have combined their assets to create bundles containing reference architectures for specific use cases.
Getting Started with AWS DX
The obvious first step towards utilizing the AWS platform is creating an active AWS account. It’s important to note that the person in charge of setting up the DX should be familiar with VPCs, AWS regions, and availability zones, and have a range of technical skills, from IP routing and BGP to VLAN tagging. This will make the entire configuration and utilization processes much easier.
- Select an AWS Direct Connect partner and facility.
Formerly AWS Direct Connect Solution Providers, this group is now termed APN (AWS Partner Network) Technology and Consulting Partners. For any cloud consultants, managed IT providers or network service providers wanting to become partners, you need to partake in the AWS Direct Connect Program first.
- Order a DX circuit and select your region.
An AWS Direct Connect circuit can be ordered directly from the AWS Management Console. Then, select the region (there are currently 16 regions globally) you want to connect to. An AWS region is defined as a specific geographic area comprised of multiple, isolated locations known as Availability Zones (i.e. data centers). Keep in mind that data costs vary per region, and resources aren’t replicated across regions unless you do so specifically.
- Configure your first VLAN.
Choose ‘Connections’ from the navigation pane and then select the ‘Create Virtual Interface’ option. Here you can configure public and private connections.
- Establish routing.
Once you have configured your connections, you can enter your router specifications and download router templates.
To simplify the process outlined above, the best APN Technology and Consulting Partners offer managed cloud connection services. This can bring peace of mind to business owners by allowing you to rely on the advanced technical expertise and cloud experience of a vendor to manage all aspects of performance and security. Such managed services will be backed by an SLA enabling businesses to claim compensation if performance guarantees are not met.
There’s a reason why more and more savvy business owners and data managers are becoming convinced that a cloud direct connect is the way of the future: because it’s true. A dedicated line to the cloud allows for better speed, scalability, enhanced security, lower expenditure and a host of other benefits.
And for those interested in an AWS DX specifically for your virtual software, platform, and infrastructure needs, all you need to do is take the leap and enjoy the ride.
About the Author:
Paul Cooney is the Founder and President of Shamrock Consulting Group, the leader in technical procurement for telecommunications, data communications, data center, SD WAN consultants, dark fiber and AWS direct connect solution provider.
After finding early success with Teligent, Inc. in the late 90’s, he took over AT&T’s struggling Los Angeles sales team and turned them into one of the best in the country within 6 months. In 2008, Paul left AT&T to start Shamrock, which he has grown into an award-winning industry disruptor offering vendor-neutral expertise on thousands of products and services related to cloud, colocation, wide area networking and telecommunications. Shamrock guarantees the best price on any product from over 250 different service providers.