Partners Praise AWS For Solving Intra-Region Connectivity Challenges With New Offering

Amazon Web Services relieved a major connectivity headache for partners working with some of its largest customers Wednesday by making it possible to extend virtual networks across multiple AWS regions on its network backbone.

The new service, Direct Connect Gateway, makes it possible for customers with Direct Connect private circuits linking their data centers to AWS to access Amazon's cloud in other geographies without significant investments of time, money and administrative energy.

Gateway makes "Direct Connect simpler and more powerful," blogged Jeff Barr, AWS' chief evangelist.

[Related: AT&T Intros New Capabilities To Securely Connect To Amazon Web Services, A Boost For IoT Solutions]

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Partners told CRN they had been eagerly awaiting this capability from the public cloud leader and often heard from customers that the difficulties in spanning AWS regions made them hesitant to adopt the dedicated connectivity solution.

Tom Ray, Head of Cloudreach, an international cloud computing consultancy, said customers had been asking for the intra-region capability for a long time.

Since AWS introduced Virtual Private Cloud (VPCs) in 2009, Cloudreach has been engineering "bespoke solutions to create connectivity between regions," Ray said.

"We are looking forward to testing the new functionality in the coming weeks," he added.

Just about all AWS customers use VPCs, which deliver virtualized networking environments.

For those connecting to their VPCs using IPsec, a secure protocol that works over the public Internet, it was only a minor challenge to extend those virtual networks across AWS regions around the world. However, the ones using Direct Connect faced a daunting obstacle if they wanted to stay off the public internet.

There are more than 60 colocation providers around the world that offer Direct Connect, according to Amazon. Those dedicated links deliver greater security, bandwidth and more predictable data transfer performance.

The most prolific Direct Connect provider is Equinix; it is also the world's largest colocation operator and has operated an AWS channel consultancy since its acquisition of Nimbo in 2015.

Kaushik Joshi, Equinix' global managing director for its AWS alliance, told CRN that Direct Connect Gateway would encourage new customers to take advantage of Direct Connect. Previously, "it was very cumbersome to go from one region to another," Joshi said.

It also was expensive, often requiring either multiple Direct Connect circuits, or additional contracts with network service providers, data traffic fees, and capital expenses for hardware.

However, Amazon has been beefing up the network backbone between its own data centers. That capacity allowed the cloud leader to remedy the problem and enable virtual private clouds, with their software-defined networks, to span across those facilities.

Customers seeking geographic redundancy for backup and disaster recovery, with Gateway, will be more likely to stay entirely on AWS rather than leverage services from other cloud providers, Joshi said.

Jason McKay, CTO of New York, N.Y.-based Logicworks, said the new offering would be met with excitement by networking teams.

Logicworks requested the Gateway capability from AWS three years ago, McKay said.

"It's a major simplification in that a customer only needs to build and maintain a single Border Gateway Protocol session to AWS and can now route to multiple VPCs in different regions using the same session," he said.

Peter Bird, a cloud engineer at Onica, a Los Angeles-based solution provider exclusively focused on AWS, said the previous limitation that forced partners to spin up separate Direct Connect links for each region running application workloads limited the attraction of Direct Connect.

Direct Connect Gateway "reduces the amount of configuration that an administrator has to be responsible for; it lessens the amount of overhead that you have," Bird said.

With the introduction of Gateway, and Amazon's steady expansion of regions, AWS updated its Direct Connect pricing model, Barr said, integrating the location of the source AWS region into data transfer pricing.