Last week was extremely busy, so the first I heard of Amazon’s Direct Connect
service being available in the UK was when my colleague Tony forwarded me a journalist request to provide an analyst comment. In a nutshell, Direct Connect allows an Amazon customer to hook up to the AWS cloud service via a dedicated comms link, rather than having to send all traffic over the public internet.
The journalist asking for input was Rosalie Marshall at Incisive, and the article she produced can be seen here – worth a read if you want a quick summary.
The comment I provided, which is quoted in the article, was as follows:
“Relying on the public internet for core application connectivity introduces a degree of variability and uncertainty around bandwidth, speed and latency that is unacceptable to many large organisations, which are increasingly putting the emphasis on end-to-end quality of service management. Utilising dedicated links to cloud providers overcomes this and hooking up via incumbent communications service providers can also have benefits in terms of costs, monitoring, troubleshooting and support.”
“While security, per se, should not be an issue when sending traffic over the public internet, provided it is appropriately encrypted, directly connecting to the cloud provider does take away a commonly perceived risk, which may make it easier to get sign off from non-technical stakeholders when making cloud-related decisions.”
These comments were based on various conversations with senior IT decision makers, along with, of course, insights from the extensive primary research we have carried out to explore the practicalities of cloud adoption. If you are interested in seeing some of this, a particularly relevant report is one that Andy put together a few months ago, entitled: “Cloud Connectivity; Carefully does it”, which can be downloaded from here.
You can check out that report at your leisure, but suffice it to say that one of Andy’s main conclusions from the research was that connecting to cloud services is a whole different ball game to enabling remote access. Just because you have the comms in place to handle the latter, doesn’t mean they will be up to dealing with the former.
Back to the AWS announcement, Andy later followed up with Amazon and arranged for the team here to speak with Robin Meehan, Chief Technology Officer at Smart421, Amazon’s launch partner for Direct Connect in the UK. Robin pretty much reiterated the points outlined above in my initial take, but we also covered some of the practicality.
Robin highlighted the importance of a one-stop shop for the entire service end-to-end (connectivity and AWS infrastructure services), pointing out that most enterprise customers want to use a specialist to outsource these kinds of activities as they are not core business.
This makes absolute sense. Picking up on the trend towards end to end service management in the enterprise space, one of the frequent snags is how to deal with parts of the chain for which you may not have the specialist skills in house – particularly for elements that are physically outside of the datacentre. More and more, there is a need for trusted partners to whom responsibility can be delegated, and that often means working with suppliers that offer a broader scope and more coherent service.
As Robin says:
“We have deep connectivity skills and reach, as well as the application layer/IaaS skills, so when the customer says ’I can’t reach my Amazon EC2 instance’, we are able to triage the problem effectively as we understand the entire architecture. For example, if it turns out to be an EC2 security group issue (aka firewall at the AWS end), we won’t blame the network.”
Of course none of this precludes Amazon customers piecing together the solution themselves, using their own expertise and general comms service providers, but as our research has highlighted, setting up the comms for business critical cloud services is not necessarily as easy as many make it out to be, particularly when more demanding applications and/or larger user bases are involved.
Anyway, the bottom line is that this recent announcement is welcome as it provides UK AWS users with choice that’s been available to US customers for a while now.