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AWS Direct Connect tiers address planned network spikes

AWS Direct Connect pivots toward higher bandwidth requirements and cuts prices on lower tiers to handle customers' seasonal workload peaks and make AWS stickier overall.

AWS has added flexibility to its cloud for customers with periodic demands for high-bandwidth direct connections, and it slashed prices to lower-end connection tiers.

AWS Direct Connect provides private connections between a customer's data center or back office and AWS. The setup delivers more bandwidth and an improved experience compared to traffic that runs over the public internet. Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud both offer similar services.

AWS Direct Connect comes in a few flavors. Customers can request a dedicated connection from the AWS Management Console; AWS provisions a port and hands off final activation steps to one of many Direct Connect Partners, such as CenturyLink or Equinix. That process can take days or even weeks, according to AWS. The bandwidth is based on a physical Ethernet port but can be divvied up among up to 50 virtual interfaces (VIFs).

Alternatively, customers can request a hosted connection through a Direct Connect Partner, and then add or subtract connections "on demand" to tweak capacity up or down, according to AWS. Hosted connections only support a single VIF, so the target audience requires higher bandwidth for more focused tasks or jobs.

Hosted connections were available with 50 to 500 Mbps capacity, but now AWS has added options for 1, 2, 5 and 10 Gbps, AWS Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr wrote in a blog post. They will be available through approved Direct Connect Partners, and AWS intends to work with partners to provide network monitoring capabilities for these more comprehensive pipelines.

Bob LaliberteBob Laliberte

These increased-capacity connections may appeal to customers who already have Direct Connect circuits but occasionally need additional bandwidth for tasks such as archiving massive data sets into Amazon S3 Glacier each quarter, Barr wrote. Rather than displace existing Direct Connect traffic, a customer could spin up a couple of high-bandwidth hosted connections, run the archive job and then delete them.

Meanwhile, along with the rollout of higher-bandwidth options, AWS has cut prices on the existing 200, 300 and 500 Mbps Hosted Connection tiers by 33.3% as of March 1, according to Barr. A 200 Mbps connection now costs $0.08 per port-hour in all regions except Japan, where it is a few cents cheaper.

AWS' move rooted in cloud market pragmatism

The key is, AWS wants to make it easier to move large amounts of data into their cloud quickly.
Bob Laliberteanalyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

The AWS Direct Connect expansions don't exactly reset the competitive dynamics for direct connectivity to public clouds, but they help make Direct Connect easier and faster to deploy and use, said Brad Casemore, an analyst with IDC. Some customers have also complained that Direct Connect's consumption model doesn't reflect the agility and elasticity that is intrinsic to cloud, he added.

"This is why, I think, you're seeing AWS place emphasis on the preapproved partners providing the service, the additional network monitoring capabilities and the on-demand nature of how these connections are added or removed," Casemore said.

Today, the public cloud is a crucial plank for production workloads -- 49% of enterprises use IaaS to host production apps, said Bob Laliberte, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass.

AWS also wants to target seasonal or periodic spikes in an organization's business, such as data analysis and IoT initiatives that require high bandwidth for limited sessions, Laliberte said.

"The key is, AWS wants to make it easier to move large amounts of data into their cloud quickly," he said.

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