What is AWS Direct Connect?

What is AWS Direct Connect?
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Imagine a healthcare company that has legacy data stored on servers in a back-office environment. It’s required that the data be accessible and available, but there’s no need to access it routinely for use in web or mobile apps at the local on-premise facility. By using AWS Direct Connect, the data is still part of the overall cloud computing environment but doesn’t depend on the public internet for bandwidth, reliability, or security needs.

Believe it or not, the internet is not the perfect, all-purpose solution to everything in business. While the rise of cloud computing, mobile apps, the web, and instant-access from anywhere has certainly changed how we do business, there are still times when a network connection is more viable when it is not channeled over the public internet.

One example of this is a company that has a mix of needs for high-throughput, low latency data transfer in the cloud and benefits from the scalability and flexibility, but also runs an on-premise data center or has a co-location facility where data is stored at rest and doesn’t need to be accessed on a routine basis by business applications. This data doesn’t even need to be web-accessible or on the internet at all. For those applications, what is required is a way to make the network infrastructure work for all of your business and data needs.

Enter AWS Direct Connect. This network service is like a bridge between the mission-critical activities for a business (say, a patient database in a hospital or a transactional system for an e-commerce website) and those that are not urgent and do not require a cloud storage solution. It’s a way to benefit from both worlds and to connect them to form one infrastructure.

Direct Connect, as the name implies, is a way to connect on-premise, co-location, or a back-office infrastructure to a cloud computing environment like Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) or EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud). It’s a nod to the fact that not every conceivable application or data store benefits from the cloud, and that companies still have legacy applications. Yet, it brings those legacy apps into the cloud and makes them accessible.

One of the best examples of where AWS Direct Connect might fit the needs of a company is when there is a project that is not mission-critical. The data might be stored in servers at your headquarters but does not need to be immediately accessible. In fact, you may not need to access the data stores over the public internet at all. Direct Connect can help you create a network connection between this private data store at your location. The connection runs between Amazon AWS in the cloud but is not on the internet. This can dramatically reduce bandwidth costs because you are not relying on an internet provider, it reduces congestion and dependence on the internet, and it reduces the likelihood of internet bottlenecks.

Benefits of AWS Direct Connect

Interestingly, another benefit has to do with scaling your IT infrastructure management. While you may have fixed data center locations or back-office servers, you can still adjust the bandwidth for Direct Connect from 1 Gbps to up to 10 Gpbs, and you can still configure your infrastructure to meet the changing needs of your apps and data. You can add more virtual interfaces, provision more AWS resources, and make decisions about legacy data or data-at-rest to increase availability or throughput as your business needs change. In short, you still benefit from a cloud computing infrastructure and the decisions you can make about scaling the service up or down.

One of the most important benefits to using AWS Direct Connect is related to the costs. Legacy apps, data that is not mission-critical, or even projects, apps, and databases that simply don’t need high-performance throughput or scalability are sometimes still moved to a cloud infrastructure because there is no way to maintain the on-premise servers. This ends up costing more. With Direct Connect, there is a lower cost for the network access from on-premise to Amazon services like S3 or EC2, avoiding the internet altogether.

This means lower costs because you do not have to pay for internet access or any overage charges and because Direct Connect provides a lower cost structure. As you can imagine, the “direct” connection between on-premise and the cloud also reduces the possibility for congestion, network interruptions or faults, and interference on the public internet.

Direct Connect is easy to use. It runs within the AWS console interface, and there are templates you can use for configuring virtual interfaces to make it all seamless and obvious in terms of which data is being transmitted from which locations to the cloud. With the AWS console, you can view the entire infrastructure from one interface with a global view of operations.

John Brandon

John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.