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Amazon Taps AT&T For Private-Line Cloud Connectivity

AWS solves one of its major vulnerabilities by teaming with AT&T to increase enterprise-friendly private-line routes into its cloud data centers.
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Amazon has allied with AT&T to address one of its few vulnerable points as a cloud service supplier: its lack of private-line connectivity between data centers in different geographic regions.

In 2015, Amazon Web Services will integrate AT&T's flexible networking option, NetBond, into its services and multiply the number of private-line routes into its data centers, Amazon announced Oct. 2. AT&T provided 40% of the VPN capacity in the US in 2013, according to Frost & Sullivan.

By linking that capacity to Amazon data centers, AWS will increase the number of secure onramps to its data centers. It's also gaining access to AT&T VPN capacity, suitable for disaster-recovery connections among its data centers. The AT&T NetBond service can also allow businesses to access cloud servers using multi-protocol label switching (MPLS), already in use inside many large enterprises.

Accessing AWS servers over NetBond bypasses the public Internet, increasing the security of the connection, AT&T spokesmen told InformationWeek. The approach can also lower network latency by 50%, they said in an email message.

Other telecommunications companies have moved more aggressively into cloud computing than AT&T, which offers its own cloud services. For example, CenturyLink, the third largest US telecommunications provider, acquired Savvis and Tier 3 cloud services to build out a chain of 57 interlinked data centers. Verizon, owner of Terremark, has a similar global chain. Both have extensive private telecommunications lines that provide enterprise customers with private-line access.

[Want to learn more about CenturyLink's cloud services? See CenturyLink Offers Private Cloud By The Rack.]

But AT&T, once it integrates its NetBond services with Amazon, will be able to supply network capacity that expands as a customer's traffic expands. It will adjust to match traffic flow, and customers will be charged for the network capacity they use, rather than signing a contract for an over-provisioned level of service. AT&T said its approach can save the typical customer up to 60% of a monthly network bill.

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AT&T spokesmen, in an email, said NetBond is flexible because it's a software-defined network based on AT&T's "patented technology in our Intelligent Routing Service Control Points. It dynamically binds cloud service provider resources to virtualized service features and a customer's MPLS/ VPN network sites."

When asked for an example of the 50% latency reduction they cited, the AT&T spokesmen replied: "Customers often route cloud traffic from their operations sites across their WAN to a data center and hairpin out to the Internet, with an average round-trip latency of at least 84 milliseconds. This contrasts with an average latency on the AT&T VPN service to a cloud service provider of less than 41 milliseconds.

"Capacity automatically expands as required by the workload without any action needed by the customer. In addition, a customer can change their bandwidth commitment in real time via the portal."

AT&T launched NetBond as generally available in September 2013. Prior to launch, IBM signed up as a customer in October 2012. Indeed, if Amazon was wondering where it might get more private-line access, it had only to check out the actions of its major competitors. CSC signed up in August 2013; Microsoft Azure signed up with the public announcement in September 2013. Equinix, Salesforce.com, HP, and VMware followed earlier in 2014, and Box and IBM's SoftLayer unit became customers in September.

Who wins in cloud price wars? Short answer: not IT. Enterprises don't want bare-bones IaaS for the same reasons they don't buy many $299 PCs at Wal-Mart. Providers must focus on support, not undercutting rivals. Get the Who Wins In Cloud Price Wars? issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest today. (Free registration required.)