In simple terms, a cloud direct connect establishes a dedicated network connection from your premises to one or more cloud providers. This makes it possible for your business to establish private connectivity between the cloud provider and your data center, office or colocation environment. In many cases, a cloud direct connect will help your business reduce network costs, increase bandwidth throughput and provide a more consistent network experience than a public internet-based connection.
In this article, we will define what cloud direct connects are, why your business should use a cloud direct connect, which providers offer cloud direct connect, how much cloud directs cost, and how your business can connect to a cloud direct connect.
Why use a cloud direct connect?
All cloud services require network access. In accessing the cloud, most businesses use their existing internet service provider (ISP) and public internet connection. Public internet is easy and inexpensive, but it's not always the most reliable, efficient or secure pathway to transfer data between your locations, data centers, and cloud providers.
Furthermore, large businesses and global enterprises may rely on their existing ISP for dedicated internet access (DIA) services. A dedicated internet connection provides a dedicated link to the internet. Simply put, your business does not share that connection or bandwidth with other customers. However, using DIA to connect your business to the cloud can constrain available bandwidth, increase latency and performance issues, and increase internet and networking related costs.
On the other hand, cloud direct connects are used to establish a private, dedicated connection from your business headquarters or branch office to the cloud provider. Many businesses that implement cloud-based services like IaaS, PaaS or SaaS fail to implement an internet or networking strategy that incorporates ever-increasing cloud utilization throughout the organization.
The question becomes… Do you want your cloud traffic to impede your internet and network traffic? This includes email, unified communications and VoIP, internet access and more.
Which providers offer cloud direct connects?
Nearly all major cloud service providers and platforms offer cloud direct connects. Popular cloud direct connect services are from all of the major cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, Oracle Cloud, Salesforce.com, SAP, Netsuite, Nutanix, and more.
For this article, we will focus on the big three cloud providers and quickly summarize their offers.
AWS Direct Connect
With AWS Direct Connect, your business can establish a dedicated network connection between your network and one of the AWS Direct Connect locations. Using industry-standard 802.1q VLANs, this dedicated connection can be partitioned into multiple virtual interfaces. This allows you to use the same connection to access public resources such as objects stored in Amazon S3 using public IP address space, and private resources such as Amazon EC2 instances running within an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) using private IP space while maintaining network separation between the public and private environments. Virtual interfaces can be reconfigured at any time to meet your changing needs.
You can purchase AWS cloud direct connects through a colocation provider such as Equinix, Digital Realty, CoreSite, and many others. You can also purchase through your ISP such as CenturyLink, Verizon, AT&T, and Zayo.
Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute
Create private connections between Microsoft Azure datacenters and your headquarters, branch locations or colocation data centers. Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute connections don't go over the public Internet, and they offer more reliability, faster speeds, and lower latencies than typical Internet connections. In some cases, using ExpressRoute connections to transfer data between on-premises systems and Azure can give you significant cost benefits.
With ExpressRoute, your business can establish connections to Azure at an ExpressRoute location such as an exchange provider facility, or directly connect to Azure from your existing WAN network, such as a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) VPN, provided by a network service provider or ISP.
Google Cloud Interconnect
Google Cloud Interconnect delivers enterprise-grade performance and throughput, with high availability backed by some of the best SLAs in the industry. Google Cloud Interconnect allows you to build, test and deploy applications on Google’s highly scalable and reliable infrastructure. It helps your business realize cost savings on outbound traffic between your Google VPC and premise-based resources.
It also allows your business to create API integrations between your infrastructure and Google Cloud for simplified management of services, minimize routing complexity and network congestion, and manage several connections to powerful Google Cloud services like Bigtable and Cloud Spanner from a single location.
How do I connect to a cloud direct connect?
There are several options available for connecting your headquarters, branch offices or colocation environment to a cloud provider through a cloud direct connect. This includes via a telecom carrier, ISP or network provider. Your business can purchase cloud direct connects via a colocation provider with a data center facility that is interconnected to a cloud provider. Your business can also use SDN internet connectivity and network providers like Megaport or PacketFabric.
Telecom carriers, ISPs, and network providers
As mentioned above, your business can purchase cloud direct connects from many traditional domestic and international telecom carriers, ISPs or network providers such as AT&T, CenturyLink, Zayo, Comcast, Telia Company, BT, Colt, Orange Business Services, euNetworks, NTT Communications, Telstra, Tata Communications, Singtel and others.
It is important to research these providers to find out if your headquarters and branch office locations are on-net and have access to your specific cloud provider via a cloud direct connect. This simply means that your specific building address has existing service availability from the provider and the network includes direct connectivity to the cloud provider. Your business may have to use several different providers depending on region or on-net availability.
Colocation providers and data centers
There are numerous colocation providers and data center facilities that are interconnected to the major cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. This includes Equinix, Digital Realty, CoreSite, NTT Data Centers, KDDI, NextDC, Telstra, Cologix, Telehouse, 365 Data Centers, Netrality and more.
Make sure that the colocation provider and your specific data center facility offer cloud direct connect to your cloud provider. Even if a colocation provider offers cloud direct connects, only some of their data center facilities may have access to cloud direct connect availability.
Cloud connectivity and interconnection providers
Your business may also want to consider next-generation internet, cloud, and network connectivity companies like Megaport and PacketFabric. These companies are changing the procurement process with point and click, instant, burstable and on-demand bandwidth configurations. These network connectivity providers use software defined network (SDN) technologies and user-friendly interfaces that assist in building your cloud direct connects between one or more locations.
How much do cloud direct connects cost?
While it’s true that cloud directs increase public cloud reliability, it comes at a cost. Public cloud providers typically charge an hourly rate per port as well as charges for data transfers across direct connection ports.
Charges by cloud service provider for direct connect
For example, a cloud provider may charge $0.30 cents per hour for a 1 Gbps port along with outbound data transfer charges ranging from $0.02 to $0.11 per GB depending on the location of the cloud facility. It is important to note that the pricing for cloud direct connects can change. Make sure to check your provider's port and data transfer pricing regularly.
Additional charges by ISP or network service provider
There are also additional costs that can occur at the ISP or network service provider level. These additional costs on top of the cloud provider direct connect charges can vary drastically depending on the provider, service area, taxes, fees, and other costs. It's important to negotiate cost-effective connectivity, but long-term agreements may be at odds with the scalable, flexible nature of cloud services. Understand what's involved with adding, changing or canceling services later on.
Should you buy a cloud direct connect for your business?
Yes, and it’s only a matter of time before you do. Why? Cloud direct connects will help alleviate network bottlenecks and chocking of applications due to bandwidth constraints imposed by cloud applications and data transfer requirements. If you’ve used Microsoft Office 365 or Teams in your business, you may have already experienced the tremendous lag on applications like Microsoft Excel, Word or even Outlook.
We can help. Datacenters.com and Global Consulting Group (GCG) can help you design your cloud architecture with cloud direct connects to ensure the availability, reliability, and performance of your cloud applications. Michael Kriech, Global Technology Consultant to learn more at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (303) 228-7658.