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What are my cloud requirements for implementing direct connections?

Direct connections provide a more efficient way to move data to the public cloud. But how does my organization set one up?

Direct connections to the public cloud provide a more reliable and secure network between data centers and cloud providers. Hoping to meet enterprise cloud computing requirements for security and reliability, major cloud providers have stepped up with their own direct connection options, such as AWS Direct Connect, Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute and VMware vCloud Air Direct Connect.

There are two fundamental considerations for direct connections to a public cloud: the cloud provider's service availability -- or service locations -- and network service provider (NSP) availability. Typically, the NSP is a regional or national telecommunications provider. You'll need an NSP that can establish the dedicated connection between your data center and your cloud provider's direct connection-enabled facility.

This might sound simple, but the details can be tricky.

Direct connections are implemented in terms of ports, so users need to consider the port speed and number of ports required for the connection.

First, it's common for public cloud providers to own and operate more than one data center to service customers in different regions around the world. But direct connection technology is still evolving, and not every provider's facility supports it. Check whether the provider facility you use supports direct connection options. If not, you may need to connect through a different facility that does support direct connections -- potentially forcing you to contend with workload and data set migrations. However, some providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), allow Direct Connect locations in the domestic U.S. to access all AWS local regions.

Direct connections are implemented in terms of ports, so users need to consider the port speed and number of ports required for the connection. For example, AWS can handle port speeds of 50 Mbps, 100 Mbps, 200 Mbps, 300 Mbps, 400 Mbps, 500 Mbps, 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps. It is possible to trunk multiple ports for increased bandwidth or to establish redundant connectivity.

There may be numerous physical and logical cloud computing requirements to establish a direct connection. For example, AWS Direct Connect generally requires a suitable single-mode optical fiber for 1 Gbps or 10 Gbps connections with support for 802.1Q virtual LANs along with Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and BGP MD5 authentication. Additional configuration data and steps, such as receiving an IP address and implementing a virtual gateway, are required to connect to Amazon Virtual Private Cloud or services like Amazon EC2, S3 and others. These details vary depending on the public cloud provider, so it's important to check with the provider, know your cloud computing requirements and ensure that the infrastructure and IT staff is in place to support the setup.

Finally, you'll need to select a regional or national NSP to make the actual dedicated connection -- so, assign and connect the fibers -- between your data center and the cloud provider's direct connection facility. Such network providers might include AT&T, Comcast or RCN. Find a provider that can service both your location and the cloud provider's facility. For example, Comcast can connect to the AWS Direct Connect U.S. East sites at Equinix DC1 - DC6 and DC10 in Ashburn, VA and Equinix DA1 - DA3 and DA6 in Dallas, TX. But Comcast doesn't service CoreSite NY1 and NY2 in New York, NY. By contrast, NSPs like AT&T services all three site options.

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