Everyone’s Getting in on Flexible WAN/Cloud Connectivity

Brian Washburn

Brian Washburn

Summary Bullets:

  • Many providers have placed their MPLS WAN service edge inside data centers, offering secure connectivity with class of service support.
  •  The expanding list of competitive offers means enterprises do not have to look far for flexible WAN/cloud connectivity options; pricing should only get better.

When it comes to connecting the enterprise WAN edge directly into the data center, it seems many of the major global and U.S. network providers are now in on the action. Just in the past several weeks, Verizon upgraded its Cloud Services Interconnect to Secure Cloud Interconnect, adding granular visibility and management control to connectivity in major Equinix locations worldwide and select U.S. Terremark facilities. XO announced Bandwidth-on-Demand, a service that supports dynamic bandwidth across the company’s WAN PoPs, including those terminating in data centers. Similar types of services have been launched by AT&T (Cloud Network Enablement and NetBond), tw telecom (Intelligent Network), Level 3 (Cloud Connect), and Orange Business Services (its long-established VPN Galerie). While these offers’ approaches and features differ, they all offer the security of transporting traffic all the way into the data center via an enterprise WAN and honoring class of service (CoS) support. Most of these WAN-to-cloud services have usage-based billing, to handle moving big workloads. Many also support bursting with CoS performance up to double, triple, or many times more bandwidth.

If the above list of providers is not enough, there are other providers that also offer support, though they may not advertise it. Just like AT&T did not fully advertise what it could do with Cloud Network Enablement right away, XO executives note Bandwidth-on-Demand had been quietly launched about six months prior to the formal announcement. CenturyLink’s sales force is selling flexible WAN-to-cloud functionality right now under the Data Center Initiative name. Telefonica (internationally) and Windstream (in the U.S.) are among the providers that have not formally announced such services, but have extended their MPLS WAN service edge into their data centers for direct enterprise connectivity. I am certain there are other network providers that are yet to come forward.

For enterprises this is all good news:

  • First, it is likely enterprises’ existing primary provider already supports some WAN/cloud flexibility into at least some data centers. The enterprise does not have to make a jarring switch just to get new features. Whether or not the enterprise’s primary provider orchestrates with individual cloud services, and whether or not orchestration would even be necessary or helpful, is a different story.
  • Second, with a lot of WAN providers offering broadly similar WAN-to-cloud connectivity, prices should get commoditized quickly. It is not that difficult or expensive to extend a MPLS switch/router into a major, fiber-rich data center facility. Add lots of competitive options and high traffic volumes driving down cost, and prices for usage-based billing into data centers should get cheap, fast.
  • Third, in the future, flexible WAN-to-cloud services could help enterprises experiencing unpredictable traffic needs between major data centers. Bandwidth between the world’s major data centers is usually an extremely cheap commodity, but it can be a hassle for an enterprise to set up. These WAN-to-cloud services could in the future win on convenience. They could supply secure bandwidth with CoS between major data centers with no fuss, which might be worth the modest premium over lowest-price commodity SDN/switched Ethernet-on-wavelength alternatives within the data center.

About Brian Washburn
Brian Washburn is Research Director for Network Services at Current Analysis. Brian tracks the technology and initiatives surrounding carrier Ethernet, IP-VPNs, optical networking and applications closely tied to high-performance networking.

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